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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Statement From Sound Choice CEO Kurt Slep

Response from Sound Choice

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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

16 comments:

  1. Mr. Slep's analogy re household property is well taken. Thank you for your post. I wonder, however, what SC's goal is with this strategy. In other words, were a KJ (a simple one person operator) to agree to stop using SC marked material in future shows, would SC stop or refrain from suing? Or, is this campaign seen as another "prinipled" way to generate revenue?

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  2. Does anyone remember sc8125 ???? ask kurt how much he had to pay in damages for that screw up. He talks about stealing but did not get permission to produce that disc from the eagles and released it to the public to make his big bucks with...hmmm a theif trying to catch theives.

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    1. That's right and they paid for doing something that was Illegal. And that is what they are doing to all the KJ's who obtained Music By free Down loading or Borrowing someones disk so they didn't have to pay for it. Good for them! Cause it was KJ's that did stuff like that, That put us KJ's who obey the laws out of Business, So if your on the level & bought everything that is in your Library, You have nothing to worry about. best of luck to you all cause (Sound Choice) is not the only ones looking for illegal down loads. And they are one of the best at reproducing music to sound like the original, not the cheap crap I hear from most KJ's who don't concern themselves with quality.

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  3. Hey there Kurt, thank you for all that you , RIAA, KIAA and others around the country are doing for us "LEGAL" KJs. I and many others support you and stand beside you in this fight.

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  4. Kurt,

    I have to say that your eloquence, writing as the poor wounded soul, is touching...if a little disingenuous. I fully agree that the real PIRATES need to be stopped by any moral means. Those who STEAL the tunes, need to dance to them! BUT... those who simply wished to transfer legally purchased data from one source to another, because it would incredibly increase the ease of use, and be a massive convenience, all while protecting the archived original disc... should not be penalized. They BOUGHT your product and they supported you.

    I "sort of" understand your point of trademark infringement, but I fail to see how the "1 to 1ers'" are damaging you. Didn't they purchase an original disc? Don't they use the exact same music made from identical sets of digital 1's and 0's? Don't they continue advertise YOUR product on their screens, regardless of the fact that they saved it to their own hard drive unit? They've retired the disc and are simply using your product in exactly the same way that you had intended, just in an easier to handle form. Why do you persecute them? Why do you make them pay for audits, and yet sell digital products that can still be digitally duplicated, and pretend that the NEW stuff is immune? While I'm at it...I understand that the KIAA is planning to start auditing the disc based KJ's in the future... will you deny this, and will you swear never to support that practice, here and now? I'll bet you wont!

    I supported KAPA because it was on our side...but the KIAA has turned into a money grabbing, greed machine bent on intimidation; and this I will NOT support.

    It seems that you are saying to all of your original CD+G supporters, "SCREW YOU!" I got your money, and because I can't stop the real PIRATES, I will take it out of your hides! Pay me now in the form of NEW digital music, ( JEM series etc.) OR Pay me again for the convenience of media shifting...and then keep paying me in the form of audits forever!

    Honestly, doesn't that sound like a PIRATE too?

    How's this...? ONE INSPECTION, and only one. If we are honest now, who are you to say that we will not stay honest? Who made you the moral conscience and judge of us all? Have you ever heard the statement: "Just because a thing CAN be done... does not mean that it SHOULD be done." ...? Just because you CAN harass people whose only wish is to make their job a little easier, why should you? If they bought your (and other's) discs, I think they will continue to BUY them; have a little faith in the people that supported you. ONE INSPECTION...and don't charge 200 bucks for it! Please stop trying to recoup your losses on the honest people that you've already made your money on.

    Thank you for reading this...I hope it touches your heart and changes your mind.

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  5. Since your company has a department that sells only commercially why don't you have a data base that incorporates the names of all your commercial customers and a list of the songs they own rights to.That would make auditing your customers very easy. Just walk in and ask for a song thaey have not bought. Either they have it or they don't. Make it Simple.
    also I rember when BMI decided to inforce copyright infringement by resturants, bars, etc. they very nicely visited each establishment and introduced themselves and explained that they were intitled to money for use of their music and gave the business an opportunity to begin paying before any suits were filed. Why were you and your company so tricky. Since you believe in honesty so much why didn't you take a more honest approch and give the KJ's a heads up on what they were legally required to do? I'm not a KJ so this does not affect me but I have friends that it does. I just think a more honest approch would have maintained a much better image of your company. Once this is over I feel that most of your customers who youattacked will not buy from you ever again. Not a good way to promote the longivity of your company, is it?

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  6. Kurt Slep, you are human slime

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  7. If Kurt "Schlepp" had run his company better and kept up with the times, a lot of this would NEVER have happened! He is greedy and stupid! The only reason I can see the "legal" KJ's are up in arms, is BECAUSE they have spent all that money, NEEDLESSLY and "it's not fair" to their jobs!
    Sound Choice HAD great music, but they went about this the wrong way! The 8125 disc is a prime example of Kurt not being legal!
    What about the "little guy" who does it for the love of entertaining and bringing joy to others, especially is this broke economy!
    Do you honestly think that businesses can even pay what KJ's want to make?! KJ's USE SOMEONE ELSE'S MUSIC AND MAKE MONEY BY PUSHING BUTTONS!!! The reason you want more money is because you have more invested, so you think! Again, what about the "little guy"? KJ's are NOT musicians, playing the music LIVE. Honestly, the money that has been talked about with these lawsuits are RETARDED! NO NEW Music for over 2 years. They sold off the business supposedly to the handful of left behind workers at the SC Factory. If someone make a shit ton of money selling the used PC Drives, THEY should be the ones the "Schlepps" go after! Don't ruin other people's lives! There are a lot of misunderstandings with Karaoke and it's laws!
    There were few if anything on the books, available to the average Joe before the past year or two. There should be grandfather clauses. The Karaoke industry has run the gamut and it's more popular than ever. BUT>>>
    going the route that Kurt did, will harm the industry more. First, the contract that they want you to sign to be "legal" is a crock!! PUH-LEEZE! Second, if you don't sign the contract and deal with their blackmail type scare tactics,or do what they want, they sue for more! Well guess what! How many people will go Bankrupt before handing the "Schlepps" a dime? I know I certainly would! This Sound Choice/Kurt Slep debacle makes me feel a bit like having an "Occupy Karaokeland"!

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  8. "Sound Choice is not out to put anyone out of business" BS

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  9. I have $20,000 invested in Sound Choice disks alone and have close to half that again in Pop Hits and Chartbusters, yet I have been sued. Is that the thanks I get for loving you? For me to take $100 a month to repay my investment in SC disks alone it will take me twenty years, I'll be dead before then, does Sc care about that? NO they are to busy being greedy. What is the value of my disks when they decide to cut rate their songs? Most of my disks are $25 spotlight disks per song cost $1.66, gem series sells songs for $.74 now. So it's already half price plus I have hundreds of sc songs duplicated as many as FIVE times, same songs on different disks (Star series, Power Picks, Foundations, Bricks, party/Teen packs, Spotlight, Stage stars, Super Stars ETC. Often I have the same titled song up to fifteen times on different disks/manufacturers. If I have 50,000 songs and remove duplicates what I have left is 27,000 individual songs, what do I do with the other 23,000 songs that I paid for? If I put them on another system they sue you? Harrington would say it's not practical, is it practical to buy the same song fifteen times. Is is practical to slander everyone, then expect them to worship you. Thunder must be a suck up.

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  10. To SC: I applaud SC's efforts to curtail these Laptop Jockeys. I know of 1 KJ running more than one (3 to be exact) systems. That means less gigs out there for the legit KJ! Ive spent thousands of dollars over the years and like SC I get a little pissed when the Laptop Jockey karaoke whores duplicate their hard drives, run multiple systems & work cheap. I get a little pissed at the KJs who dont pay their dues obtain copied music and then take gigs from legit KJs. I can remember when there was only a few KJs in my area. Now theres a whole boatload of Laptop Jockeys!. Then theres the bar owners. I have personally notified bar owners they are employing shady KJs and can be subject to legal action.I've even given them the links to be educated. I let them know I am legit. None have responded! SC I think you should go after the bar owners as a first defense. Since they profit the most and give refuge to rogue KJs. If bar owners dont hire Laptop Jockeys this mess will go away. Because all thats left is the KJ with the disc! SC has recently been in my area of operations and I hope all of the shady Laptop Jockeys are runned out of town. Maybe then I can get steady gigs again and be paid for what Im worth. I dont mind carrying my 3 CD cases, CDG players etc. Ive been doing it for over 13 years! I dont need a program to manage singers & music. I put the slips on my mixer. I can see who's up with no problem. Old Skool karaoke worked then and it still works just as good today.

    SC you ARE guilty of not keeping up with technology. Make your tracks invidually available for download. KJs dont like to spend $30 for a disc that contains 3 good songs. We do it because we had no choice in the past. Now with such sites as Zoom, Sunfly & Buykaraokedownloads we do. I have no doubt this has affected your bottomline. Take a look at what Zoom & Sunfly have done with the marketing of individual tracks and take note. I dislike the rogue KJs as much as you SC but Im not sure that beating them into submission or financial ruins is good for business. Hit the bars first then the KJ. If they dont stop then take legal action. FYI to you jailhouse lawyers Civil Court is a preponderance of evidence meaning SC only needs to prove 51% to win. Lawyers like to do settlements simply because trial is a crap shoot. Buying SC's entire music catalog for $5000 is a pretty good deal considering Ive spent a lot more on CDs and I dont even have the complete library.

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  15. Kurt,
    “It is my opinion that...” you must be recklessly catching MANY Dolphins in your tuna nets, in a way that might be considered at the very least negligent, by the Federal Trade Commission or the US Attorney's Office concerning consumer protection & is certainly the blackest mark on any company's customer service record in the history of… history.
    17 years ago, I fell in love w/ karaoke, after several failed attempts of getting bands going & a lifetime with a love of music. It offers people live performance experience, they might never see in their lives otherwise. It builds self confidence, spreads fun, love & enjoyment of music. I started filling in for my favorite host, who I consider my mentor, when he was ill. He taught me “the disc is your license,” & that “the producer pays the royalties @ the production level, & the establishment (in most cases) should cover the ASCAP/BMI dues @ the performance level, & especially if they have TV's or in some cases a Jukebox (unless it is leased) they must already be in contact with those agencies. & to ask them if they do.”
    I started purchasing discs @ that time, in an attempt to start my own show(1997). I have always maintained a 1:1 ratio. After the first major theft in 2001, I scrapped my books & reprinted them to reflect my new 300 disc library (this occurred before I went digital, I went from 800 discs to 300 discs overnight). In a subsequent theft from a show (after I'd gone digital) during a bathroom break, someone walked out w/ two 300 disc folders, for which, since I'd learned from the get go, that the disc is my license, I deleted the file folders associated with each of the discs labeled B001-B300 & B301-B600 & once again scrapped the books & started buying to replace what I could from the loss. Currently I have around 1260 discs minus some that were palmed @ shows (before I had the security & convenience of being digital). They are from producers like yourself, Chartbuster, All Hits, AmeriSing, Music Maestro, Sweet Georgia Brown, DK, Pop Hits Monthly, Top Hits Monthly, Hot Stuff Karaoke, TopTunes, Sunfly, UltraSonic, Zoom, & MANY others, who also produce legitimately licensed Karaoke, as they were obtained from re-sellers such as: Karaoke.com, KaraokeWarehouse, TotalKaraoke, DooWop .com & even department stores like Fred Meyers/Walmart, who don't do business with theives or counterfeiters. When I attempted to do 2 shows at once; knowing “the disc was my license” & the basic principals of arithmetic/copyright laws/general fairness/common sense, I split my library in half, doubled my sound equipment & had to print 2 sets of books. I learned quickly from the pirate who started his show weeks before he undercut me, & had more music than I did in my split inventory, that 1 show was they way to go. This didn't prompt me to lower my standards down to his level, instead I quickly recombined my library, & have one very good show, as opposed to the "possibility" of 2 average shows on any given night.
    I've only ever done this (karaoke) for the love of music and what it can do for the people, who take part. I perform a SHOW - that is to say I don't just announce the next singer in monotone & press the buttons like a monkey, there is comedy, crazy antics, a few ettiquette education sessions, life skills counseling, etc..

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