Irving Azoff’s PRO Sues a Dozen-Plus Radio Stations for Not Paying Royalties: ‘Caught Red-Handed’

Irving Azoff’s Global Music Rights (GMR) is launching a new wave of litigation against radio stations that have allegedly refused to pay royalties to the upstart performance rights organization, claiming three operators around the country had been “caught red-handed violating the law.”

In three separate copyright lawsuits filed Tuesday (Oct. 4), GMR said that One Putt Broadcasting, Red Wolf Broadcasting and Southern Stone Communications each made the “strategic decision” to simply not pay performance royalties to the group and “hoped to get away with it.”

“Defendants did not get away with it,” wrote GMR’s attorney Daniel M. Petrocelli in the complaint against One Putt. “Its stations have been caught red-handed violating the law.”

The defendant companies are regional operators, each running fewer than ten stations in smaller cities. One Putt runs several in the Fresno, California area; Red Wolf has stations in Hartford, Connecticut and Providence, Rhode Island; and Southern Stone operates around Daytona Beach, Florida.

GMR says it offered licenses to all three operators on numerous occasions, but that they chose to keep playing the group’s songs without paying: “Red Wolf did not obtain the necessary authorization, making the calculated decision instead to infringe freely and hope GMR would either not find out or not enforce its rights.”

Each company did not immediately return a request for comment on Thursday.

Founded by Azoff in 2013, GMR is a new competitor to the older and far-larger performance rights organizations ASCAP and BMI. But it controls a star-studded repertoire of roughly 100 artists, including Bruce Springsteen, Drake, Bad Bunny, Pharrell Williams, John Lennon and Bruno Mars.

Starting in 2016, the group spent years battling in court with the Radio Music Licensing Committee, which reps thousands of radio stations in negotiations with the PROs.

RMLC claimed that GMR had lured mega-stars away from the heavily-regulated existing PROs to create an unfair “must-have” collection – allowing them to extract “exorbitant prices” from radio stations. GMR countersued, calling RMLC an “illegal cartel” that had long abused its overwhelming market dominance. The case ended in a settlement and a long-term agreement earlier this year.

But in the new lawsuits, GMR says One Putt, Red Wolf and Southern Stone have chosen to keep the fight going by refusing repeated demands to pay licensing fees. And GMR says their infringement is willful – an important distinction in copyright law because it could subject them to larger penalties.

“When that terrestrial radio company had been offered ten separate opportunities to license the public performances, declined those opportunities, paid nothing for performances, and still performed more than one hundred compositions tens of thousands of times, then it acted willfully in violation of federal copyright laws,” GMR’s attorneys wrote in the complaint against One Putt.

Bill Donahue