EL DORADO HILLS, Calif. - When Mark and Karoline Platt, owners of Sienna, an upscale restaurant in El Dorado Hills, decided to disagree with music licensing giant BMI, they had no idea how costly it would get.
"We paid them for what we feel it's worth," Mark Platt said of their decision to send a check to BMI for $63.50 instead of the $2,100. BMI wanted.
BMI wanted the larger amount for licensing music for all 270 seats in the restaurant. Mark Platt decided to send a prorated check for the 35 seats in his patio outside, where the live music would actually be played during five summer months.
"We're not trying to duck this. But we're trying the principle behind 270 seats when 235 of them you can't even hear the musician," Mark said.
BMI sent the $63.50 check back and that's when the Platt's said their nightmare with the company began.
"They just kept calling us, threatening us, sending us legal information," Mark said.
BMI also sent a representative who discovered a local solo artist playing on the courtyard had included six songs on his playlist that are licensed by BMI.
The company sued, asking the Platts to pay $24,000.
The couple decided to fight BMI and spent almost $20,000. in legal fees.
But when the case ended up in mediation, the couple said the judge eventually gave them some blunt advice.
"We understand your principle is right, but you're not going to win this case, so you're better off, let me help you not make a bad decision and try to take this thing further," Mark said they were told by the judge.
"This is their contract the way they write it, and so you have to follow their contract," Karoline said the judge advised them.
The couple ended up paying their legal fees of nearly $20,000. plus a total of $15,000. to BMI for their legal fees and the licensing fees the restaurant had not paid for.
"It's wrong. It's still wrong. And this is why we're here today. We want to get the word out to other businesses so it doesn't happen to them," Karoline said, adding, "and (they were) not even willing to come talk to us and visit out venue."
Attempts to reach someone for comment at BMI's Los Angeles offices were unsuccessful.