Friday, December 17, 2010
Only 10 days after a federal judge in Washington, DC sharply limited the US Copyright Group's mass file-sharing lawsuits there, a federal judge in West Virginia has come down even harder on another set of mass lawsuits.
The judge noted that it's simply not proper to "join" this many defendants who did not participate in the same transaction and did not work together. The mere allegation that the defendants used the same P2P software and infringed the same movie does not mean they can be can be joined into a single lawsuit. Everyone being targeted might well have a totally different defense, and the judge approvingly cites a 2004 ruling against the music industry.
Read the rest of the article by clicking on this link:
Friday, June 4, 2010
Also - Sound Choice conducted this "audit" via Skype webcam. According to the owners of Good Time Karaoke, "we sent pdf copies of each of our 3 systems books and then set up a time for a skype. Michael asked for certain songs and we showed copies of the disc(s) using webcam".
It is interesting to note that Sound Choice slandered this company in their lawsuit. The lawsuit against Good Time Karaoke states that:
97 Defendent GOODTIME KARAOKE INC was observed operating a karaoke system to produce a show in wicth conterfit copirs of SLEP_TONES accompaniment track were being used.
98. In connection with that show Defendant GOODTIME KARAOKE INC. repeatedly displayed the sound choice marks with our rights or license.
99 Defendent GOODTIME KARAOKE INC has put on as many as eight shows per week at as many as five diffrent venues, as many as three simultaneously.
100. Defendant GOODTIME KARAOKE INC maintains a library in excess of 12,000 songs
stored on each of its karaoke systems"
When asked about whether Sound Choice provided them with evidence to support the above claims, the owners of Good Time Karaoke stated "No explaination was offered or asked for, We are being dropped from the suit and have letters on the way to exonerate us. We do not know why we were named in the first place."
Of course, this company was not compensated by Sound Choice for the time and aggravation of being named in a lawsuit, and submitting to an audit. It would also appear that Sound Choice is setting precedence for others to demand the same audit procedures that were extended to Good Time Karaoke - not having to sign an audit agreement, and not having to account for each and every Sound Choice karaoke track listed in your books.
There is something else that seems very fishy about this audit. The owners of Good Time Karaoke are now ready to join the KIAA, and seem to be supportive of Sound Choice's unethical tactics to combat piracy. This, despite being falsely accused, having your name dragged through the mud for everyone to see, and having to spend valuable time preparing for, and submitting to Sound Choice's "audit".
We understand, that, after numerous sleepless nights worrying about this lawsuit, the owners of Good Time Karaoke are relieved to have this burden lifted from their shoulders. However, to all of a sudden be supportive of a company who has caused so much pain and suffering seems too good to be true. We think that there is more to this story than what we are being told. It is our opinion that Sound Choice is attempting to do damage control, and avoid counter suits. Perhaps a confidential settlement was reached with Good Time Karaoke, requiring them to be publically supportive of Sound Choice......and perhaps the owners of Good Time Karaoke are the nicest people on the planet, and can easily turn the other cheek after being crucified by Sound Choice. In our opinion, the confidential settlement is the more likely of the two options.
Friday, May 7, 2010
Sound Choice recently filed a law suit against people who were selling hard drives on Ebay, Craigs List, etc. We APPLAUD this form of legal action.
Here is a link to the suit:
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Sound Choice's Kurt Slep is luring people he has sued into a trap. It is becoming clear to anyone following the Sound Choice lawsuit drama that Sound Choice is making these lawsuits their PRIMARY method of generating business. They sue KJs in mass quantities, and then bully their way into getting the KJ to pay a "settlement" fee.
To make matters worse, they are using public karaoke forums to intimidate people named in the lawsuit into paying. Take this quote from Sound Choice CEO Kurt Slep as an example, where he is responding to one person in Florida who was named in a suit:
"I do not believe the order for service has gone out in FL, or if you have not yet been served, you should contact Mr. Harrington immediately. That does not mean that you cannot still get counsel if you would rather do that *after* initial discussions with our lawyer. At least you will know where you stand and can explain that to your lawyer. But once YOU hire counsel, the lawyers will have to do the talking, which will drive up your costs, to pay YOUR lawyer, if nothing else. " Kurt Slep, CEO, Sound Choice
In the above statement, Kurt Slep wants one of the people he sued to contact his SC representative, PRIOR to consulting with an attorney. He he luring this person into a trap. Clearly, Kurt Slep wants the defendent to speak with a SC representative prior to speaking to an attorney, so he can gather more evidence against this person. Essentially, he is hoping the person will hang themselves, in order to ensure that he is more likely to get money out of the person.
Slep goes on to threaten and intimidate this person by stating that it will cost them more if they consult with an attorney. Honestly, what Mr. Slep is doing should be a crime. He is using un-ethical, hard-ball tactics, because he is a desperate man, on the brink of financial collapse.
If you have been named in a lawsuit, common sense dictates that you consult with a qualified attorney PRIOR to speaking to, or making any statements to Sound Choice.
The above editorial is the opinion of this blog's authors, based on statements made by Sound Choice CEO Kurt Slep.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Here is a copy of the agreement:
INITIALS AUDIT ACKNOWLEDGEMENT – PAGE 1 OF 2
KARAOKE LIBRARY AUDIT
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF TERMS
THIS DOCUMENT MAY AFFECT YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS. DO NOT SIGN IT WITHOUT READING IT.
THIS DOCUMENT IS NOT A SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT.
THIS DOCUMENT IS NOT BEING TENDERED AS PART OF SETTLEMENT NEGOTIATIONS.
You have requested that your karaoke library be audited in order to have this information considered as one of the factors in resolving a dispute between you and Sound Choice Studios, Inc., and Slep-Tone Entertainment Corp. (together, “Sound Choice”).
Your signature below indicates your acknowledgement of the following terms for this audit:
1. YOUR REQUEST FOR AUDIT. Your signature below constitutes your request for an audit of your karaoke library. Sound Choice has agreed to conduct this audit at its own expense (except for incidental expenses you may incur in assembling your materials for the audit).
2. EXISTING EVIDENCE. A Sound Choice representative has already visited one or more of your shows and gathered evidence, including photographs, song lists, and other information, that based upon our experience reflects a high probability that you have committed acts of infringement. You have been sued for trademark infringement involving counterfeiting. In
summary, you have been accused of playing karaoke accompaniment tracks that include a display of Sound Choice trademarks, without owning a legal CD+G disc containing that track for each system on which you store that track.
3. REJECTION OF SETTLEMENT OFFER. You acknowledge that Sound Choice has offered to settle this matter on certain conditions. Your request for an audit constitutes a rejection of that settlement offer. Sound Choice’s policy is to increase its settlement demand at the conclusion of an audit, if you are determined to have infringed its intellectual property.
4. SCOPE OF AUDIT. Sound Choice will conduct an audit of your karaoke library to determine whether you have legitimately acquired a legal copy of every Sound Choice karaoke accompaniment track stored in your karaoke library. A Sound Choice track is deemed to have been legitimately acquired only if you own an original CD+G (compact disc plus graphics) disc
containing that track. If you have transferred the track to another format (“media-shifted”), you must own an original CD+G disc containing that track for each such system to which you have transferred that track, in order to be considered in compliance. Sound Choice has also been authorized by other manufacturers of karaoke accompaniment tracks, including Chartbuster, Stellar, Pocket Songs, Priddis Music, and others, to perform a simultaneous audit on their behalf; your audit may include those manufacturers. Sound Choice will provide the results to those manufacturers, who may begin their own lawsuits against you if you are not in compliance. These other manufacturers will be identified on the day of the audit.
5. RIGHT TO TERMINATE. You have the right to terminate the audit at any time; however, you should be aware that Sound Choice may use all available legal process, including obtaining a court order, to obtain the information it is collecting through this audit. Destruction of evidence, whether performed before or after the audit, may constitute “spoliation” and may subject you to sanctions from the court.
6. AUDIT PROCEDURES. The following procedures will be used to conduct the audit:
A. A Sound Choice representative will contact you to arrange for a mutually acceptable time and place for the audit.
B. If at any time during the audit process you fail to cooperate fully with the representative’s requests, the audit may terminate and Sound Choice will consider you to have failed the audit.
C. You should assemble for inspection all of your karaoke discs, CAVS machines, computers (including laptops), and any other apparatus containing karaoke media, whether being used for active or backup purposes, in the designated location at the designated time. If any additional equipment is necessary to access the media (including but not limited to keyboard/mouse, monitor, or the like), you should bring that equipment as well. Failure to present all materials for inspection will constitute failure of the audit.
D. You should also assemble for inspection all of your song lists and receipts from disc purchases made within the last five years. Receipts for disc purchases may be verified against seller records to prevent falsification. Discs acquired after Sound Choice’s initial investigation will be matched against load dates on your system to determine whether infringement occurred prior to acquisition of the disc. An indication of a track loaded before purchase will be considered an indication of infringement and will constitute failure of the audit.
AUDIT ACKNOWLEDGEMENT – PAGE 2 OF 2
E. During the audit, each disc will be marked using an indelible method. This marking will not interfere with your ability to play the disc but will prevent that disc from being re-used in an audit of another company.
F. Sound Choice may employ software designed to examine any hard drives in your possession to determine whether songs have been deleted from the system after Sound Choice’s investigation began. A deleted track file may indicate an attempt at spoliation and constitute evidence of willful infringement, as well as an audit failure.
G. You should be prepared to demonstrate that you, or one of your employees, loaded every song stored other than on a CD+G onto the machine where it is stored. If you purchased a pre-loaded hard drive or CAVS machine, you should be aware that Sound Choice has never authorized a transfer of that type. Possession of a pre-loaded system will be considered failure of the audit.
7. SUCCESSFUL AUDIT. You will be deemed to have successfully completed the audit if you comply fully with these terms in all respects and if the audit shows that for every audited track, you own one legitimately acquired original disc containing that track for every individual machine (CAVS machine, laptop, or other device you use for media storage for a karaoke show)
that contains that track. This is known as “1:1 correspondence.”
8. DISMISSAL OF SUIT. If you successfully complete the audit, Sound Choice will be willing to dismiss the suit against you provided that you agree to adhere to all applicable copyright and trademark laws with regard to the use of Sound Choice accompaniment tracks and to submit to future audits at Sound Choice’s reasonable request.
9. USE OF AUDIT RESULTS. You acknowledge that Sound Choice may use the results of the audit it conducts in any way it deems appropriate, including as evidence against you in the pending suit.
10. FAILED AUDIT. At the conclusion of a failed audit, Sound Choice will tender you a new settlement offer that is at least $2,000 per system higher than the most recent settlement offer made. If that settlement offer is not accepted within 14 days of being tendered, it will be withdrawn, and Sound Choice will be committed to seeing the lawsuit to its conclusion. In
that event, you should be aware that statutory damages for trademark counterfeiting can be as high as $2,000,000 per mark (there are two federally registered trademarks at issue here, for a total of $4,000,000). You should also be aware that in a recent case involving non-commercial file-sharing, Capitol Records v. Thomas, a jury awarded almost $2 million to the
record labels who sued an individual. Because your use is commercial, Sound Choice believes it can obtain a significant verdict against you.
11. ADVICE OF COUNSEL. You acknowledge that you have had the opportunity to review this document and to obtain an opinion of counsel regarding it prior to signing it.
Your signature below constitutes a rejection of any and all outstanding settlement offers from Sound Choice and an acknowledgement of the terms of audit.
IF YOU ARE UNCOMFORTABLE WITH ANY OF THE TERMS ABOVE, DO NOT SIGN THIS DOCUMENT.
SIGNATURE PRINTED NAME
COMPANY NAME TITLE
DATE E-MAIL ADDRESS TELEPHONE NUMBER
THIS DOCUMENT MAY AFFECT YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS. DO NOT SIGN IT WITHOUT READING IT.
THIS DOCUMENT IS NOT A SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT.
THIS DOCUMENT IS NOT BEING TENDERED AS PART OF SETTLEMENT NEGOTIATIONS.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
You may be asking, "how does Sound Choice verify that a KJ has legally purchased a disc for each and every song on their hard drive?". By Sound Choices own admission, they don't verify this PRIOR to filing suit against a KJ, but rather give the KJ the option to submit to an "audit" in order to prove that they are within the 1:1 ratio they require. From all of the research we have done, it is our opinion that prior to filing their massive law suits, Sound Choice has no idea whether or not a given KJ who uses a computer is a pirate, or may have purchased their products.
To us, Sound Choices tactic of filing a lawsuit prior to asking any questions is a highly unusual tactic. In fact, we can't think of ANY other business that sues a customer(with no concrete evidence), and requires the customer to prove that they DIDN'T steal their product in order to be removed from the suit. If any of our readers can point out another business that uses a similar tactic, we would love to hear it. This tactic is very reminiscent of how the Gestapo barged into peoples homes, looking for people who were hiding Jews.
If you have been named in a Sound Choice lawsuit, you must submit to an "audit" by Sound Choice. And guess what, Sound Choice won't be checking to be sure that you have legal copies of Sound Choice CDGs either! According to Sound Choice CEO Kurt Slep "if the KJ legitimately has a full set of discs for each and every rig, then after we FILE and notify the KJ of our filing, all he has to do is prove that he has the discs (we will send someone to do a full audit under specified conditions) and then he will not be served and will be dropped from the suit. One of the conditions of the audit, however, is that since we have the right to represent the other manufacturers, the KJ might be
audited for ALL the songs on his system. After all, if we are going to go to the expense and trouble of an audit, both parties should want it to be thorough, so that it only has to be done once and the KJ then won't have to worry about the other Karaoke producers if he is legitimate."
So now, the big question that each and every KJ should be asking themselves, is "should I use Sound Choice products in my shows"? Its a fair question, because the mere act of using their product subjects you to being named in a suit, and all of the time and aggravation that goes into defending yourself........despite the fact that you may have purchased legal copies of CDGs.
And what about the harm to your reputation? Sound Choice damages your reputation the second they name you in a lawsuit. The most recent case in Virginia named numerous KJs in the suit, accusing each of them of criminal acts. Copies of the lawsuit have been posted in DJ and KJ forums all over the country.
Take a look at this video of an innocent KJ who was the target of one of Sound Choices lawsuites:
While Sound Choice offers each of the KJs the opportunity to prove their innocence, the damage has already been done to their reputation. But Sound Choice doesn't care about that aspect - they are a desperate company, using desperate measures which will only alienate their remaining client base.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Here is a link directly to the lawsuit:
Hello posters. This is Kurt Slep, CEO of SOUND CHOICE. I was recently made aware of this thread and while I didn’t have time to read the entire thing and don't intend to get embroiled in legal discourse here, I have read a lot of OPINIONS posted here and have to thank THUNDER for having a level head and making the most sense AND being the most legally correct in his postings. A few quick FACTS:
Sound Choice is suing for Trademark Infringement because it was simply easier than doing both copyright and trademark infringements and made our case easier to prove. We can (and if need be, will) also bring copyright into play to increase the penalties or to bolster our cases. If you are not versed in Intellectual Property (IP) law, then you might want to preface your writings with "in my opinion" or if you object to the laws, state, "I wish it were different, but...". For those reading such posts, I caution you not to make the mistake of taking what you might read in a chat forum as “law”. Unfortunately we are also aware of lawyers who have given EXTREMELY bad counsel to some defendants because they do not know IP law and are actually giving advice that can get their client into more hot water. For those who read DANDANTHETAXIMAN's rant, you might question where he learned his legal "skills". It was brought to our attention that he has had many run-ins with the law and an extensive arrest record. Therefore, I would also caution those considering taking legal advice from him.
IN ALL CASES, we have more evidence than is named or given in our complaints - but there is not a need to show our hand in our legal filings. The opposing party can ask to see that evidence during their depositions if they decide to fight. However, we cannot legally file without legitimate legal grounds and for those whose OPINION is that we don't, if you are named in a future suit, you can follow that tact at your own risk. We do not need to have all details on an individual before filing and/or serving someone - the clerk of court’s office has resources at its disposal for finding people when it comes time to serve them. If you are really interested in our methodology, we are trying to keep our costs low so that we can keep your settlement costs low. But we are following local laws in all of our actions, although we are filing in Federal court, since Trademark infringement is a Federal offense.
In the cases in Phoenix, we have NOW served papers on those who did not reach a settlement before we had to provide service. Sound Choice is not out to put anyone out of business, we are only trying to get paid for what we legally can and should get paid for. AND THERE ARE LAWS IN MOST COUNTRIES that protect our rights to do so. Plain and simple, if you have made a copy of any of our works without paying us or a legitimate reseller for it, you are a thief (or in the popular term of the common name for this specific crime, a pirate). Thus we generously have offered terms that are LESS THAN IF THE PERSON HAD ACTUALLY BOUGHT THE PRODUCT AT RETAIL. If they do not settle on those terms, then we serve the papers and it becomes a full lawsuit - and the cost goes up, naturally, as higher costs are incurred on our side.
We do not have the rights from the Music Publishers (who represent the song writers) to grant the transfer of our music from the CDG to a hard drive, that is why we have not licensed "hard drives" per se. HOWEVER, we are willing to not take action (although, nor indemnify) a KJ who chooses to do so for reasons of ease of operation PROVIDED THAT HE HAS A LEGALLY PURCHASED DISC FOR EACH AND EVERY SONG ON EACH AND EVERY HARD DRIVE (or CAVS type ) SYSTEM. That is what we (and KIAA) are referring to as "1:1".
As THUNDER mentioned somewhere in one of his postings, if the KJ legitimately has a full set of discs for each and every rig, then after we FILE and notify the KJ of our filing, all he has to do is prove that he has the discs (we will send someone to do a full audit under specified conditions) and then he will not be served and will be dropped from the suit. One of the conditions of the audit, however, is that since we have the right to represent the other manufacturers, the KJ might be audited for ALL the songs on his system. After all, if we are going to go to the expense and trouble of an audit, both parties should want it to be thorough, so that it only has to be done once and the KJ then won't have to worry about the other Karaoke producers if he is legitimate.
If any of you have followed recent court cases filed by the RIAA against file sharers, you have seen average settlements in the range of $80,000 PER SONG, which is still only about half the maximum for copyright infringement. Trademark is $200,000 per mark with that going up to $2,000,000 for willful infringement. And these cases were against home users; in our suits, there is commercial use of our IP, thus very few “personal” protections and higher penalties – there is no “fair use” provision for commercial use of federally protected intellectual property rights. While it can be argued that the recent RIAA settlement amounts are ridiculous, they are in fact legally allowed and it's the juries that have awarded such amounts, not the record labels asking for them. Our offered settlements are averaging under $1 per song - less than if you had bought the discs at full retail in the first place! So, we cannot be accused of being ridiculous or unfair. Simply stated, our position is that those that have been earning a living using our stolen property need to pay for that property. Many of the people we have been and will be filing against have been earning a living, sometimes for years, on stolen property. Amazingly, some of you get indignant at the filing of suits or of a producer’s defense of its IP rights, but you would be the first to get up in arms about someone stealing your cars and opening up a used car lot! THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE overall - only that it is easier to steal the music than a car. Would you allow me to come into your house, take your property and have a garage sale on your lawn and walk away with the money? Would you find that behavior to be totally acceptable? If not, then (those of you who have stolen our music to use in your shows and earn a living) how can you defend your actions and even get indignant if you are only being asked to pay for the property you have been using? Our actions (if the person settles before we actually have to serve them) are nearly analogous to a thief stealing a Mercedes, having the use of that car for months or years and then when finally caught, being allowed to “settle” by paying the used car value at the time he is caught. If they decide to fight even that deal (which we see as being really arrogant and foolish), then we have no choice but to follow though and naturally the cost to settle goes much higher.
For those who cry that we should go after the people who are selling the hard drives – those actions are already underway. And to underscore the increased level of infringement, we have the FBI involved in some cases. But if many of you had not bought from such sources, they wouldn't be in business. That is also true for anyone who bought a CAVS machine preloaded with songs - Sound Choice has never authorized nor been paid for any songs that have ever been included on a CAVS machine. No matter what you paid for it, it is illegal. If we sue you and you feel you were duped, take that issue up with the person who sold it to you - or let us know who they are and be willing to provide receipts and help us shut them down.
Regarding the issue of bars and their liability: YES, they can be brought into the suit as contributory infringers - if they are aware that the KJ is running an operation that is infringing an IP owner’s rights. We (and the KIAA) are beginning a general information campaign to make bar owners aware of this, so that they can avoid being enmeshed in a suit. Again, we are trying to cause the fewest “waves” for everyone yet still get paid for our property. But enjoining the bar is an option that we have available to us to protect our rights. Some of the KJs in Phoenix have complained that they lost their gig(s) because the bar didn’t want to get in trouble for harboring criminal activities. It’s no different than if drugs are being sold on the bar premises and they become aware – for many, they have too much to lose and are not tolerating it. On the flipside, some KJs who have legitimate systems have picked up those gigs or have been able to raise their prices by making the bars aware there is a price to pay by trying to cut corners and hire illegal hosts who will do a show for Fifty bucks and beer. For those KJs who used to command prices higher than you are getting now, you should be saying “Thank you Sound Choice”. As a matter of fact, we are hearing that more and more, from KJs around the country.
We have recently filed suits in NC and TN and will continue to investigate and file suits - both to protect our business and those of our loyal customers (like THUNDER) who have bought discs and are doing the "right thing" despite the temptation to clone their library to be able to compete with KJs who are running shows with illegally obtained music and undercutting the competition because they have no cost.
I have personally conducted investigations in about 7 states and of the shows that I have attended, at LEAST 60% of all songs played have been Sound Choice and in many cases it's been over 85% and even 100%, despite the fact that they advertise over 100,000 songs. So, most of you love our music quality as do your singers, but you might also notice that we have not produced many new songs in the last two years. Why? Because too many of you are STEALING it and we cannot generate enough sales to cover our costs. Every business would have very healthy profit margins if they didn't have any cost of doing business or cost of supplies. Do you steal many other things in your daily lives and think nothing of it? If so, then this response won't mean anything to you. For those who might feel a twinge (even the tiniest bit) at the things written here, if you want our music to continue to keep your business “healthy” - then start buying it! If you want to avoid the possibility of an investigation or to be sure you pass an audit with flying colors, pay for the songs you have on your systems BEFORE you are notified. We have a very good price on a library of songs and we are even offering some extended terms for multi-system operators.
Thank you for your time in reading this and hearing the “other side”. For those who want to rush off some indignant response, I just ask you to ponder everything I have written before responding. If you still feel you have a defensible position as to why you should be able to steal our music and run your business (and run others OUT OF BUSINESS), then I am not going to debate you here, because there is nothing I could write or that others could write to reach you. Nothing short of your life’s work or something of great value or your own livelihood being stolen is going to make you think differently. For those of you who remain our staunch supporters, I want to personally thank you for your support AND patience over the years. With your continued support, both by buying our products and reporting the thieves around you, we will do our utmost to prevail and produce the music and other opportunities that drives your business.
Sincerely, Kurt J. Slep CEO, Sound Choice
If you are not familiar with the methods that they have been utilizing in the last year, here is a summary (in our opinion, of course) of what they are doing, based on the statements directly from Sound Choice CEO Kurt Slep:
- Sound Choice sends an investigator to a specific region to search for public places such as bars or restaurants that offer karaoke. The investigator visits the establishment, and looks for KJ's who are using Sound Choice music files on computers.
- The Sound Choice investigator somehow gets the name and/or company who is using a computer to do their show, and leaves without contacting the KJ.
- The Sound Choice investigator visits numerous establishments in the same area, and compiles all of the information of everyone involved.
- The Sound Choice investigator has no idea whether or not the KJ has a legal set of CDGs for every computer file they use in their show.
- Sound Choice then files a Trademark lawsuit, naming numerous KJ's and business establishments in the suit. They notify the people involved that they have been named in the suit, but do not have them served with a summons.
- Sound Choice then gives the people involved the opportunity to prove that they own CDG's for all of the music on their hard drive, by demanding an audit by Sound Choice representatives.
- Sound Choice also offers the individuals the opportunity to "settle" by paying Sound Choice $6000.00.
Essentially, Sound Choice is filing a law suit against individuals and bar owners, without knowing up front (one way or another) if the person has paid for their product or not, and forces people to defend themselves, despite the fact that they may have indeed purchased legal CDGs, and merely transferred the music files to hard drive.