Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles used to have a restaurant near the Bay Oak Law offices in Oakland; an assistant used to visit nearly every weekend with her fiancé. Unfortunately, the Oakland branch closed a few years ago, and Roscoe’s is currently only in Southern California.
Unfortunately, Roscoe’s was in the legal news today because it lost a copyright infringement suit. The case itself is fairly standard: after years of ignoring requests to license music to be played, Roscoe’s Long Beach restaurant was caught playing eight songs for which it did not have a license – the house band played several John Coltrane selections and the CD player played several songs by the jazz fusion group Hiroshima. The “good” news is that the court awarded “only” $4,500 per song ($36,000 total) – it could have been far more. Some copyright infringement suits have up to $30,000 in damages per work. The “bad” news is that the plaintiffs were awarded $162,000 in attorneys’ fees, because the works infringed had their copyrights registered within 90 days of being published. This is one of the most important advantages to registering copyrights when they are published – the attorneys’ fee issue can (and often does) dominate the size of the case.
Which is worse – being hit by a “Trane” or having someone go all “Hiroshima” on you? It looks like Roscoe’s got a little bit of both.