Copyright Infringement Judgment Debt Not Discharged in Bankruptcy

The managing member of a saloon had a $41,231.90 default judgment for copyright infringement entered against him.  The saloon did not have a public performance license, but played music promoted and licensed by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) anyway.  ASCAP sued the managing member and received a default judgment when the managing member failed to defend himself in the lawsuit.

The managing member filed for bankruptcy after the default judgment was entered against him.  The bankruptcy court held that “the debtor had willfully failed to obtain an ASCAP license and maliciously disregarded the rights of ASCAP’s members and Federal copyright law.” The bankruptcy court therefore excepted the copyright infringement judgment debt from discharge in bankruptcy. The Eight Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel upheld the bankruptcy court’s ruling.  Before filing its lawsuit, ASCAP tried to contact the managing member 44 times in three years using a variety of means.  The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel found that the managing member was responsible for complying with the applicable laws and that he “blatantly failed to comply with Federal copyright law.”

This case is Sailor Music v. Walker, No. 14-6012, U.S. Bankruptcy Appellate Panel for the Eighth Circuit.