Jay-Z vs. Alabama Coffee House: Just the Beginning of a Music Battle?

Perhaps serving as a warning to venues around the country, several acts under the Universal Music Group label, including superstar rapper Jay-Z, have a hit a Mobile, Ala., coffee and tea house with a lawsuit for playing music without paying royalty fees. Spot of Tea, which turns into Club Insanity at night, was served with the lawsuit after agents from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) witnessed the venue playing the Jay-Z and Rihanna hit “Umbrella” without proper permission. The lawsuit asks that the club pay between $750 and $30,000 per song in damages; a total of six songs were played illegally, according to ASCAP.

Spot of Tea isn’t the only venue Universal Music has targeted for playing unlicensed music, as several other venues around the country also have found themselves centered in UMG’s legal cross hairs. How Jay-Z or UMG knew the venue was playing unlicensed music is anyone’s guess, but it adds to the growing murmur that ASCAP and BMI agents are scouring the country looking for venues playing music without paying for permission.

Claims that Jay-Z sent agents to that specific venue seem unfounded, and Spot of Tea owner Tony Moore says he is considering a countersuit because he says he is licensed to play music from a library of more than six million songs, although early reports seem to indicate that “Umbrella” is not part of that library. While Moore takes on this uphill battle, this should serve as a warning to other venues around the country to bone up on their music copyright knowledge, especially since it appears as though big brother is indeed listening.

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