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Green Knoll Grill“Billie Jean is not his lover and the Green Knoll Grill didn’t have permission to play [t]his 1982 hit.

That mistake could cost this restaurant to the tune of several thousands of dollars for each of the four songs that Broadcast Music Inc. claims the venue played one Friday night in May 2014.

The Green Knoll Grill is not alone. Every year, BMI sues about a half-dozen bars and restaurants in New Jersey alleging copyright violations. Last year, the music giant took more than 160 businesses to court, saying they played one of the 8.5 million songs in its repertoire.

The violations could be a result of music played on speakers, DJs spinning records, a band performing covers or patrons screeching out karaoke. The copyright laws are so complex that it takes into account the square footage of a public venue and how many sound speakers and television sets a venue has in order to determine whether a license is needed to just turn on the radio or TV.

While most of these copyright cases are settled out of court, one case involving an Italian restaurant in Linden last year allowed the public to see just how costly such lawsuits can be for businesses. A federal judge in December ruled that Amici III Ristorante on West Elizabeth Avenue would have to pay $24,000, or $6,000 for each of the four songs BMI said the restaurant played last May.

ASCAP says music licensing fees are “one of the many costs of doing business.”

Professional songwriters and composers earn much of their livelihoods by licensing the rights granted to them by copyright law,” the organization, which represents a half-million songwriters and music publishers, says on its website. “ASCAP exists to protect that right by licensing the public performance of our members’ music.*

*from myCentralJersey.com