Pascale's: Paying the price for music

When Neal Pascale hears the name George Gerswhin, he thinks of his wallet instead of "Rhapsody in Blue."

As the co-owner of Pascale's Wine Bar and Restaurant in Syracuse he did not expect to be victimized by a nationwide crusade for music licensing rights.

"Paying for the right to play music is not something you think about when you start in this business," Pascale said.

Pascale thinks about music licensing rights now. In September 2007, The American Society of Composers and Performers (ASCAP) sued him for copyright infringement.

Court documents show compositions by Gershwin and Cole Porter, among others, as the specific pieces of ASCAP intellectual property Pascale played in his West Fayette Street establishment during business hours.

ASCAP represents over 330,000 composers and publishers including high profile names such as Stevie Wonder and Duke Ellington.

They initiated hundreds of copyright infringement and intellectual property lawsuits across the country in the past two years. Pascale's was just one stop on their campaign.

Warner Bros. Inc., Bourne Co. and Aria Music Company were the plaintiffs in Pascale's case, according to court documents. .

Michael Sciotti of Hancock and Easterbrook in Syracuse represented the plaintiffs. He declined to comment on the issue.

"I don't agree with the lawsuit, but they were well within their rights to go through with it," Pascale said.

The plaintiffs demanded $240,000 from Pascale.

In December 2007, the case was dismissed. Documents show the dismissal was "pursuant to rule 41(a) 1" meaning it was by the plaintiffs under certain conditions.

The main condition being Pascale's purchasing of a proper ASCAP license.

Pascale said ASCAP licensing fees are based on the number of seats a bar or restaurant can hold. He now pays them roughly $800 annually for the right to play music in his bar and restaurant.

Pascale was then contacted by another licensing giant, Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI).

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