The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers has filed a lawsuit against the owner of Jackson’s Blue Ribbon Pub in Wauwatosa, alleging that Dan Zierath violated copyright laws by playing music in his restaurants without the proper license to do so .
The group, which filed the lawsuit Aug. 23 in federal court, said it has been in contact with Zierath since 2020 in an effort to make the licensing process as easy as possible.
“It is important to note that we do not usually have this problem. Most restaurants are willing to pay the reasonable fee we charge; however, Mr. Zierath has refused to do so, and although we view lawsuits as the last option, we felt this was the only decision to make at this point,” said Jackson Wagener, an attorney with ASCAP.
The attorney representing Zierath, Aaron Hall, said he and his client are reviewing the allegations and will respond to them before the indictment deadline in early September. Until then, Hall said neither he nor Zierathi would comment.
ASCAP is confident it will win the case and stated that almost all disputes that lead to its lawsuits end up being settled before going to court.
“Honestly, the law here is pretty black and white. There is a clear violation of copyright due to Mr. Zierath to pay the fee,” Wagener said.
What is ASCAP and what does it do?
ASCAP’s goal is to ensure that more than 875,000 writers worldwide are fairly compensated for the use of their work. This is done by using copyright law to ensure that restaurants and other venues that use music from those writers pay for the licenses that authorize them to play that music.
Wagener said if you hear a restaurant playing music, “it’s almost a virtual certainty you’re hearing an ASCAP-represented artist.”
About 90% of funds generated from purchased licenses are distributed to artists.
“These are people who rely on the art they produce to put food on the table, so we’re just trying to make sure they’re fairly compensated for the work they’ve done,” Wagener said.
The average annual licensing fee a country pays is about $750, Wagener said; however, because Jackson’s Blue Ribbon Pub in Wauwatosa is larger than the average venue, Wagener said his fee will likely be $2,500.
ASCAP said none of Zierath’s or his daughter’s restaurants currently pay for music, but the organization hopes this single lawsuit will resolve all disputes it has with the family.
Zierath is no stranger to controversy
Zierath is no stranger to controversy. He was convicted of misdemeanor criminal damage with a domestic abuse modifier in 2021 in connection with charges filed in 2019 that accused him of breaking a window on his ex-girlfriend’s car and cutting the top of her car. her during a verbal altercation. One felony charge and two other misdemeanors were dismissed but read into the record.
In 2020, Zierath made headlines when he vowed to defy Governor Tony Ever’s lockdown rules and reopen his restaurant during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. He later reconsidered that decision and did not pursue the opening.
Also in 2020, the city of Wauwatosa told Zierath that his restaurant would not be allowed to hold its annual Jacksonfest as a result of five police-reported complaints stemming from the event’s performance in 2019.
In 2021, Zierath was involved in a lengthy conversation with the city about his proposed Hermanas upscale Mexican restaurant. The city was reluctant to approve the restaurant, citing the swirl of public controversy surrounding Zierath. After denying the restaurant twice, it was eventually approved.