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BMI, Sony sue Wicker Park’s Piece pizzeria over live-band karaoke

Piece, the Wicker Park pizzeria and brewery, is being sued by BMI and Sony, who are claiming copyright infringement of songs played by a live karaoke band at the establishment.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court, names Piece and its owner, Bill Jacobs, as defendants.

The plaintiffs allege Jacobs and Piece “publicly performed and/or caused to be publicly performed at the establishment the musical composition[s] … without a license or permission to do so. Thus, defendants have committed copyright infringement.”

On its website, Piece advertises live band karaoke that is held every Saturday at 11 p.m. Patrons are allowed to pick songs to sing that a guitarist, drummer and bass player provide the backing music to.

BMI alleges that, since May 2014, it has reached out to Jacobs and Piece more than 70 times by phone, in person, by mail and email “to inform Defendants of their obligations under the Copyright Act to obtain a license for the public performance of musical compositions in the BMI repertoire.” The company also sent several Cease and Desist letters.

Three alleged performances — all of which were said to have occurred on Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015 — were singled out in the complaint: “Crazy” by Willie Nelson; “Give It Away” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers; and “Say It Ain’t So” by Weezer. The bands themselves are not named as plaintiffs in the suit.

According to a BMI spokeswoman, a representative went to the restaurant and heard those three songs played by the live karaoke band. She called the lawsuit a “last resort.”

Jacobs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The single-count suit seeks statutory damages and an order that would bar Piece “from infringing, in any manner, the copyrighted musical compositions licensed by BMI.”