Warning, this is a long post on a controversial subject. I will not use this post to debate the issue or interject too much opinion, rather, I will try to state clearly and succinctly what is happening in the legal arena of karaoke for us hosts and our venues.
WHAT IS HAPPENING:
Phoenix Entertainment Partners (PEP) is a company that owns the trademarks for the karaoke brands Sound Choice and Chartbusters. These brands represent, arguably, a large percentage of the content at many karaoke shows and are often the preferred choice of singers. Both of those companies are no longer in business, but PEP controls the trademarks. They have stated that they do not allow karaoke hosts to display their trademarked song tracks using a computer UNLESS the host or the venue go thru a specific process, which either involves a costly blanket license, leasing of original content from PEP, or an audited host who can prove that they have an original disc for each trademarked track offered at their show.
PEP has recently contacted most of the karaoke venues in our area and informed them that either they need to be in compliance with this matter or face legal action...meaning, any karaoke show that uses content from CHARTBUSTERS or SOUND CHOICE without being "PEP Compliant" would be open to possible legal action from PEP. Previously, PEP was litigating the hosts directly, currently they are litigating the venues that hire the hosts. Again, this is a long and controversial topic, and if you need more info about these lawsuits, google "PHOENIX ENTERTAINMENT PARTNER LAWSUIT".
HOW THIS WILL AFFECT KARAOKE IN OUR AREA:
A lot depends on who takes the warnings seriously and who ignores them. Some got the warnings and did not realize what they were. There will be a flurry of activity initially with people proactively complying, and later more activity as lawsuits actually come to the court. Immediately you will see hosts either licensing content, deleting content, or returning to disc usage instead of computers. Hosts can become compliant easily by NOT USING Chartbusters or Sound Choice content, ONLY using them from original CDs instead of computers, or voluntarily being audited to assure compliance and enter an agreement to not be sued. Hosts that are using collections of content that they have no discs for will most likely have to stop using Sound Choice and Chartbuster songs altogether.
HOW THIS AFFECTS LOCAL KARAOKE HOSTS:
They could be fired, or forced to comply . Since it is the venues being contacted, if they are paying attention, the venue owners may not want to be involved in litigation and may decide to just cancel karaoke altogether if their host is not willing or able to be compliant, and if the venue does not want to shoulder the cost of venue compliance. It is not up to the hosts to litigate, get an attorney, it is the hosts goal to keep working and insulate the venue from the potential of a lawsuit.
HOW THIS AFFECTS HARRYOKE SPECIFICALLY:
Harryoke is working with PEP to be audited and become a Sound Choice and Chartbuster Certified Host, meaning, that I will have proven to PEP that I have an original SC and CB disc for each song I claim to have in my library, and will be allowed to use my computer to play CB and SC content that I legally own, and will be able to add new SC and CB content as I obtain it, without fear of lawsuits for myself, or for the venues that use me exclusively as a karaoke provider. I have gone thru the audit process successfully, and will just need to prove to them next week that the 12k CB songs have been removed to assure compliance.
WELL THEN WHY ARE YOU DELETING 12k SONGS THIS WEEK:
Back in 2012 when Chartbusters was going out of business, I purchased the entire Chartbusters licensed catalog to use at my shows. I paid thousands of dollars for it, and have all of my documentation. During my audit, it was revealed to me that the retailer that I got my songs from had counterfeited the material and defrauded me. Had this not happened, you would see no change in my library, but since this was revealed, I will have to delete those songs from my show to remain in legal compliance. I will be doing my best to source the missing songs as I can, from other sources or from sourced original media. This means that a large number of CHARTBUSTER songs will be missing as of this week. This will not cripple my song selection, but it will put a big dent in it. I will be sitting about where I was in 2012, aside from any content I have added from other sources since then. The singers who will feel it most are those who go for the deep country tracks or some of the obscure pop titles that I had Chartbuster exclusive on. I will be redoing the karaoke song list online this week and the song books will be updated ASAP!
If anyone knows of an attorney in CA who might be interested in taking my fraud case against the retailer to recoup my losses, let me know, I would be interested in talking to them.
THAT IS ALL FOR NOW...just wanted to fill in the blanks proactively, and shed some light over what has been on my mind the last few weeks and how it is being handled. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or message me privately. You can also visit the Phoenix Entertainment Partners website or google them for more input.
THANK YOU ALL , and THANKS for understanding and bearing with me through these events.
UPDATE AND EDIT FROM 6/7/17 - PROBLEM SOLVED!!:
I HAVE SOME PRETTY GREAT NEWS...(long post warning). The short version is, I do not have to delete any songs from my HARRYOKE! library of tunes, and my audit concludes successfully on that note, meaning that I will be a PEP Compliant and Certified karaoke host. Might even say bona fide. LOL.
Last week I posted about the legal state of karaoke and some challenges to hosts and venues. I also posted that I was going to have to delete 12k of my songs because in the course of being audited it was pointed out to me that I was defrauded by a supplier who sold me counterfeit content without my knowledge. My chore this past weekend was to clean the 12k songs out of my library and books and online song lists. Then at 1030 am today, I had another audit set up to verify that was done. About an hour after posting that post on Facebook I was contacted by another karaoke host on the other coast who is a friend of mine, and generally a very helpful person. You know how people say "if you ever need anything let me know" and don't always mean it? He is always willing to help on a tech issue if he can. So he reaches out and I fill him in on how I was defrauded. Back when Chartbusters was going out of business, they started lowering the prices on their product to clear out all stock. When the fire sales started, the price on the full 12k song catalog got too good to say no to. My buddy got HIS directly from Chartbusters, I got mine from a well known karaoke supplier based out of FL. The supplier fulfilled the order from another well known supplier in California. The sales person I dealt with was in California. I paid thousands of dollars to them and they shipped the music to me. That was over 5 years ago. Fast forward to the audit a few weeks ago. I showed them the music I got from CA and they instantly knew it was counterfeit. That was a gut punch they could do nothing about. To be legal, I would have to delete the music.
With my friend the KJ understanding this, he told me he would sell me one of the certified and registered sets that he bought and was not using, to get me out of a bind. I reached out to my auditor at PEP to make sure that was allowed, and to ask him to certify it for me before I paid good money to anyone. He certified it and I sent my buddy the funds and he mailed it out to me and it is in my hands today. So instead of an audit today, I sent the email to my auditor showing him my new replacement music, and that is the last step to my becoming certified legally compliant.
I want to shout THANK YOU from the mountain tops to my friend and colleague for helping me this way, but he chooses to remain off the radar and does not want any public recognition. He is just happy to be able to help. Karma wise he definitely has one in the bank. I cannot believe how the stars aligned to make this happen so quickly.
With this certification, Harryoke, (and anyone who hires Harryoke) no longer has to look over their shoulder or wait for the other shoe to drop in regard to litigation about Sound Choice or Chartbuster content. I will be allowed to continue to use the content that I have proven I legally own, and acquire new content from those brands if I choose to, as opposed to others in the industry who may be forced to remove those brands entirely, or be litigated in court for using them without permissions or certification.
Today I am exhaling, and will be downing a bottle of bubbly tomorrow to celebrate the events of this weekend, and to toast my friend for bailing me out, and toast ALL OF THOSE FRIENDS who came to me after that post with offers of help, donating music, asking what they could do, or just sending me good wishes and good thoughts. I tell myself all the time that I am surrounded by some of the best folks, and this chain of events just proves it further.
THANK YOU ALL for your support, and good thoughts for my colleague for taking the weight off my mind.