Pro Music Rights sues supermarket giant Meijer for alleged non-payment of public performance license fees

Florida-based royalty collection firm Pro Music Rights (PMR) has sued US supermarket chain Meijer for allegedly refusing to pay fees agreed in a contract for a public performance license.

The lawsuit, filed in a Florida court last week, alleges that a Meijer employee entered into a contract on behalf of the company with PMR.

PMR claims that this contract saw Meijer agree to a “non-exclusive license to publicly use or perform copyrighted musical compositions” that were represented by PMR at 256 Meijer locations over five years.

The lawsuit alleges that Meijer agreed to this license in exchange for paying PMR $50 per month, per each business location.

With its headquarters in Michigan, Meijer is an American supercenter chain throughout the US Midwest. It repoertedly generates over $18bn in annual revenues.

According to PMR’s claim, which you can read in full here,  in mid-June, 2020, Joshua Robinson, referred to as a ‘Team Leader’ at Meijer, entered into a written Business License Agreement with PMR on behalf of his employer.

Robinson, continues the complaint, “manually inputted payment information, using [Meijer’s] credit card information, and authorized payments using the provided payment method”.

Whilst entering into this contract online, Robinson was required to manually place a check mark in a box confirming that he was over 18 and that read he and understood the terms of the deal on behalf of Meijer.

Adds the complaint: “Before manually and voluntarily clicking on the link titled ‘create new account,’ Defendant’s Agent read the following sentence, stating: ‘Licensee understands that they are taking a license pursuant to the above contract of at least Fifty dollars per location, plus taxes, processing fees and yearly increases, which will be assessed each month and automatically charged.'”

Amongst the six causes of action listed by Pro Music Rights in the lawsuit, the Florida-based firm is seeking an order declaring that a contract exists between PMR and Meijer and that “both parties are legally bound and obligated to perform under the terms of the contract.

In addition to that order, PMR is suing for breach of contract.

Adds the complaint: “With the exception of two payments made to [PMR] on [June] 18, 2020, the Defendant has failed and refuses to acknowledge their duty and obligation to continue to perform conditions, covenants, promises, and agreements required of them under the terms of the Contract.

“The Defendant’s failure to continue to pay the amount it knew it owed [PMR] under the Contract constitutes a breach of the Contract and Florida law.

“Because of Defendant’s failure to perform their obligations under the Contract, Plaintiff has been damaged in the sum of $6,264,138.03, which is the remaining value of the contract that has not been paid.”

The other causes of action listed in the complaint include Negligent Misrepresentation; Unjust Enrichment; Promissory Estoppel and Quantum Meruit “in the alternative to its breach of contract claim”.

PMR hit headlines earlier this year for suing “the entire music industry” over what it alleged was a potential “conspiracy to shut PMR out of the market and to fix prices at infracompetitive levels”.

Another of Noch’s businesses, Florida-based independent music company Sosa Entertainment LLC, sued Spotify towards the end of last year, claiming, amongst other things, that Spotify has not paid Sosa full royalties associated with over 550 million streams.

Spotify launched a countersuit in May, claiming that its fraud-monitoring team found “unmistakable signs that the streams of Noch and Sosa’s content had been artificially inflated”.

In June, Sosa asked a federal Judge to dismiss Spotify’s countersuit, calling the streaming company’s action “procedurally defective” and “legally deficient”.

On July 2, PMR and Napster owner Rhapsody jointly filed a notice at the US District Court in Connecticut, stating that the two parties had agreed that PMR’s action against Rhapsody should be dismissed “with prejudice”.

On July 8, a near-identical filing came from iHeartMedia and PMR, followed, on July 10, by another filing that indicated an agreed dismissal (again, “with prejudice”) between PMR and UK-based 7Digital.

Most recently, on Monday (July 27), another agreed dismissal (again, “with prejudice”) was filed by the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC), following the same wording as the others. (You can read each filing through the relevant links here.)

Bloomberg Law noted in July that the fact that all of these dismissals have been made “with prejudice” is significant, as it suggests that each party has been settling out of court with PMR. (It also means the suit can’t be refiled against the defendants in each case.)Music Business Worldwide