Federal judges in Los Angeles and New York this week ordered an individual perhaps best known for his continued efforts to negate the sale of a radio station in Sacramento to Entercom Communications more than 20 years ago a hefty penalty.
In two separate but related matters handed down Wednesday, Royce International Broadcasting Corp. and its principal owner, Ed Stolz II, were told they must pay upward of $1.5 million in license fees, costs, attorneys’ fees and statutory damages to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and its members.
Why? Royce International’s KFRH-FM 104.3 “NOW” in Las Vegas; KREV-FM 92.7 in San Francisco; and KRCK-FM in Palm Springs, Calif. failed to pay ASCAP license fees “over several years” and continued to broadcast songs written and published by the group’s members without permission.
California U.S. District Judge Jesus G. Bernal awarded more than $900,000 in attorney’s fees and costs in an infringement action filed by ASCAP on behalf of its members.
That award, levied against Royce International and Stolz, followed an earlier jury verdict in the case that found Royce International and Stolz to be “willful infringers” and required them to pay $330,000 in statutory damages.
Bernal also previously issued an injunction blocking the Royce stations from playing ASCAP members’ songs without a license.
At the same time, New York U.S. District Judge Denise Cote rejected the Royce stations’ application for licenses under the ASCAP Consent Decree.
Cote, who serves as the ASCAP “rate court” judge, determined that the stations applied for ASCAP licenses in an attempt to stave off the consequences of Judge Bernal’s injunction. Because its Consent Decree allows ASCAP to refuse to license any music user that indisputably owes license fees to ASCAP under a prior license, Cote concluded that the Royce stations are not entitled to ASCAP licenses until they pay the organization more than $319,000 in license fees.
Calling Royce International’s behavior “unconscionable and unreasonable,” Cote gave the radio broadcaster until Friday, July 20 to pay ASCAP that sum if it wants to obtain ASCAP licenses for the three radio stations.
“Songwriters deserve to be fairly compensated when their music is performed, and those who use music without permission should be rightly held accountable. The decision by Judges Bernal and Cote affirm this basic principle,” ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews said. “While we prefer to work directly with licensees to ensure songwriters’ work is not infringed, we will take the necessary steps to protect our members’ rights. We are pleased both of these judges recognized songwriters’ value and have taken measures to protect their livelihoods.”
How long can one fight for what they believe is right? For Stolz, who also owns KBET-AM 790 in Las Vegas, the answer is 22 years. Stolz has been protesting the sale of his former KWOD-FM 106.5 in Sacramento, today known as KUDL-FM “106.5 The End,” since February 1996.
Based on a ruling made May 8, 2018 by FCC General Counsel Thomas Johnson Jr., Stolz will need to extend the long duration of his fight — or finally call it quits.
On Oct. 10, 2017, a Petition for Reconsideration (PFR) was filed by Stolz pertaining to the license renewal of The End.
Stolz sought reconsideration of a Commission memorandum opinion and order dismissing, and on alternative and independent grounds denying, an earlier petition for reconsideration he had filed.
Johnson said no, based on several issues including lack of standing, and not acting in a timely manner, although the standing issue is far greater in this matter.
This latest denial for Stolz follows a March 2018 setback by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in response to a rehearing en banc of his long-standing case against Entercom Communications pertaining to the sale of the former KWOD-FM.
The denial quashed the hopes of Stolz that the D.C. Circuit would reexamine its decision to uphold the 1996 sale of “The End” to Entercom.
Stolz’s saga began in February 1996, when Royce International agreed to sell then-Alternative KWOD to Entercom for $25 million.
In September 1999, Stolz attempted to stop (or reverse) the license transfer of KWOD. He sued Entercom’s now-President/CEO David Field, alleging violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO).
The battle dragged on to July 2002, when the FCC dismissed the original Form 314 filing proposing the transfer of control of KWOD to Entercom.
In May 2003, a new Form 314 filing was granted by the Commission, pursuant to “the interlocutory judgment issued by the Superior Court for the State of California” in Entercom v. Royce International, which ruled that the sale of KWOD was valid and should be consummated. The original February 1996 FAX from Entercom outlining the terms of the deal, which was dismissed in July 2002, was then resubmitted to the Commission.
Stolz argued that California state court went beyond its authority when it ordered him to surrender the license of KWOD to Entercom.
Royce International had owned KWOD from 1977.