Cafe International in San Francisco used to host open mic nights. According to Hoodline, the cafe has a strict rule that only original music can be played at their open mics. That didn’t stop performing rights organizations from coming after them…
BMI allegedly threatened to sue the cafe after an open mic participant sang “Happy Birthday” to their friend.
The cafe’s owner, Zahra Saleh, says that SESAC has come after them too. She says the two PROs have been bugging them for 20 years, accusing them of copyright violations, threatening lawsuits, demanding money, and secretly recording performances.
Saleh also says that she tried playing her uncle’s music in the cafe, but BMI wanted her to pay royalties for it. Her uncle is a famous musician in the African state of Eritrea, but he says that BMI has never paid him any royalties.
Saleh says she is no longer going to have open mic nights, even though she doesn’t make any money off of the events. She says the event was intended “for young people to have fun, instead of being on the streets.”
Both BMI and SESAC did not respond to Hoodline’s request for comment.
This is far from an isolated incident, and is indicative of the way in which PROs conduct business. In October Ari Herstand reported that ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC pressured Missouri coffee shop Bauhaus Kaffee over charity concerts that benefit fallen police officers and firefighters.
The PROs have a funny way of fostering lucrative relationships with potential revenue sources…
Nina Ulloa covers breaking news, tech, and more. Follow her on Twitter: @nine_u
Photo by Peter Lee from Flickr used with the Creative Commons License