Ed Stolz’s fight to hold onto his three FMs continues in an ongoing battle with a group of music companies who won a lawsuit against the broadcaster for airing their music without licensing it. In the latest twist, a federal judge in California has ordered that the $1,685,673 that Stolz had deposited with the court be released to the music companies.
The coalition of record labels, music publishers and other rights holders won a $1.3 million copyright infringement suit against Royce International Broadcasting. But their judgement grew as legal fees added up as Stolz repeatedly took legal maneuvers to avoid paying them or to prevent the sale of his three FMs to cover the outstanding damages.
The group, including Sony/ATV, Universal Music, Warner Music Group and ASCAP, among others, had been pushing for the money to be released. And while Stolz initially resisted, both sides came to an agreement in late April avoiding what would have been a hearing planned for this week on the issue.
The music companies alleged the Stolz-owned stations had played music in their catalogs without obtaining the required licenses. District Court Judge Jesus Bernal earlier awarded the music companies damages for each of the eleven copyright violations named in their complaint, some dating back to 1981. Stolz appealed the judgement, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the verdict.
It is not yet clear what impact the payment of the money owed could have on the station sale process. The U.S. Court of Appeals earlier this month unanimously rejected his emergency motion to block the pending $6 million sale of CHRs “92.7 The Revolution” KREV San Francisco, “104.3 Now” KFRH Las Vegas, and “Hot Hits 97.7” KRCK-FM Palm Springs, CA to religious broadcaster VCY America. The judges also rejected receiver Larry Patrick’s request that the appeal of a lower court decision clearing the sale be dismissed.
The prospect that Stolz may be able to prevent the sale of the FMs may be why VCY America has not yet installed its religious format on the trio of CHRs. The broadcaster has signed a $5,000-per month local marketing agreement with Patrick to operate the stations and spent $80,000 to buy the equipment needed to bring the stations into compliance with their licenses. But so far, no programming changes have been made.
The Federal Communications Commission also needs to grant approval of any sale. There too, Stolz has been submitting additional documents in recent days trying to convince the FCC to reject Patrick’s effort to secure approval. But the agency may wait until the court process has been completed before it weighs in.
If the sale of the three FMs goes through, it would leave Stolz with “790 Talk Now” KBET in Las Vegas and two FM translators in the Palm Springs, CA market.