Florida Bar Sued for Playing Songs Without Paying Licensing Fees

No dough, no 'Cotton Eye Joe' was the tune one Florida bar heard after failing to pay fees for copyrighted songs played by DJs, karaoke performers and live musicians at the venue.

Woody's River Roo bar near Sarasota found itself the target of a $150,000 lawsuit filed in federal court by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), which distributes royalties to songwriters and publishers.

The suit alleges the operators failed to pay fines and licensing fees for several copyrighted songs.

The lawsuit alleges that the tunes, whether spun by a DJ, covered by a local performer or belted out by karaoke singers, were performed at Woody's without the required royalty fees.

Pat O'Leary, general manager for the 250-seat casual dining restaurant/bar, said the lawsuit was a total surprise and the restaurant hadn't been served with legal notice yet.

"The first we heard about it was in the paper," O'Leary told FOXNews.com."This has never happened to us before ... this is all new stuff."

He said due to a clerical error, the bar operators failed to pay yearly licensing fees to one of the three major firms that holds music copyrights, but they are willing to pay ASCAP the money they owe.

After contacting ASCAP, O'Leary said he is sure a settlement will be reached out of court, but for less than the $150,000 being sought in the lawsuit.

"They're not looking for damages" said O'Leary. "It doesn't leave a bad taste in our mouths."

According to a report in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, ASCAP said said it sent a private investigator to the bar last September to document any unlicensed music being played.

He listed several songs including 'Cotton Eye Joe' by Rednex, 'Margaritaville' by Jimmy Buffett, 'Charlie Brown' by The Coasters, 'Midnight Train to Georgia' by Gladys Knight and The Pips, and Tone Loc's version of 'Wild Thing,' according to the reports.

Phones calls to ASCAP's New York and Miami offices were unreturned Thursday.

All copyrighted songs played in public require the payment of fees for usership. Smaller bars usually pay fees between $150 to $500 a year.

ASCAP counts 275,000 U.S. composers, songwriters, lyricists, and music publishers among its membership and licenses billions of performances a year, according to its Web site. The licensing fees are based on the scope of the medium and the type of performance.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.