Karaoke Legal Issues

Please be advised that I am NOT a lawyer and that I DO NOT offer legal advice. What you will find here are my personal beliefs and opinions. Make of them what you will. If you are dealing with any legal issues please contact an attorney. I welcome your comments on these issues.

Format Shifting Controversy

If you are a professional karaoke host you have most likely read about the current controversy concerning using format shifted karaoke song tracks to run your shows. Some karaoke music manufacturers are contending that you are not permitted to format shift the song tracks from their CD+G discs to any other format without their expressed permission.

Like many others you may be thinking that since you are strictly 1:1 compliant how could you be doing anything wrong. The courts may actually agree with you on this point but there is a twist when it comes to karaoke song tracks. You are not only performing the music, you are also displaying the manufacture's company logo (brand) at the same time.

Now you're probably wondering... how is displaying the logo from a computer any different than displaying it from a CD+G disc? Here's the reasoning as I understand it. When you format shift a song track from the original disc you are compressing the audio and therefore degrading it to some degree. You are then displaying the company's logo while performing the degraded music therefore impugning the quality of the brand.

This is the argument being used to force karaoke hosts into agreeing to an audit of their karaoke music library. A law suit is filed by the manufacturer and then they offer to drop the suit if you submit to an audit. To my knowledge the audit does not include any testing of the format shifted song tracks for their audio or video quality.

At this point it appears that there are only a couple of ways to protect yourself from these tactics. Either stop playing any song titles created by these manufacturers or always use the original CD+G disc to play them. Either way you are no longer committing copyright infringement.

There was recently a case settled in Arizona between a karaoke disc manufacturer and a professional karaoke host. You can read about the particulars of that case at the PDF Archive. I recommend you read this and come to your own conclusions.

A Personal Commentary

Karaoke music piracy is a big problem that affects both the manufacturers and legitimate karaoke hosts. Many of you know of at least one KJ who has thousands of karaoke songs that they obtained illegally by buying a loaded hard drive. Or perhaps a KJ who has one set of discs but has duplicated them on multiple hard drives to use with multiple systems. These are the true pirates and if you have compelling evidence of their illegal activities you should report them. These are the pirates who are costing you gigs and income because they can easily undercut your price.

If you are a legitimate KJ you have invested a lot of money in your karaoke discs. If you have changed over to a computerized system you have ripped the songs from those discs to a hard drive maintaining a 1:1 correspondence between the discs and the files stored on the hard drive. You have not duplicated the hard drive for use with other systems. You are not a pirate.

These law suits are being filed against any karaoke host who performs their karaoke songs from a computer hard drive. It doesn't matter that you've been a faithful customer who has supported the manufacturer for years. They want to use you in their battle against piracy at your expense. You will not be compensated for any expenses incurred from submitting to the periodic audits. In fact, you may be charged for the privilege.

Some karaoke hosts look at the audit as a noble gesture believing that they are doing their part to fight piracy. I have no problem with a voluntary audit. Perhaps if enough karaoke hosts become "certified" it would go a long way in putting the pirating karaoke hosts out of business.

I do have a problem with legitimate karaoke hosts being railroaded into submitting to an audit with some legal ploy. And being a law abiding citizen I will not commit trademark copyright infringement and therefore have removed the offending songs from my library.

Article by Richard Wise. Follow me on Google+

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