Skull's Rainbow Room sued for copyright infringement and unfair compensation

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Posted at 4:36 PM, Oct 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-16 18:19:37-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A burlesque show producer and dancer has filed a lawsuit against her former employer. She claims in the lawsuit the owners of the venue paid and her staff unfairly and infringed upon her copyrighted material.

Cooper Hays filed the lawsuit against Skull's Rainbow Room, the establishment's former owner, Skulls Rainbow Room, LLC and its current owner, Luke Venture, LLC. The lawsuit was also filed against Icon Entertainment and Bill Miller, Jr., who owns at least part of Icon and is the majority member of Luke Venture.

The lawsuit says Hays began working for Skull's Rainbow Room in 2016, when the then-owner called her, asking her to work there and create a live-music burlesque show.

In her employment offer, there was no written agreement. It was orally agreed that she would be paid weekly to create, produce and perform in her show.

In addition to her nightly burlesque show, Hays completed other tasks for Skull's, such as marketing and social media management. The lawsuit claims she worked between 60 and 70 hours a week, with a weekly paycheck of $250 and $500. The lawsuit also claims her employers told her to perform exclusively at Skull's.

In May 2017, when Luke Venture bought assets of Skull's Rainbow Room, Hays requested a meeting with the business's new operators, but they refused.

After failing to schedule a meeting with Bill Miller, Jr. and being told she couldn't take time off after returning from vacation, Hays tried to resign in September 2017. It was at that point Miller agreed to have dinner with her.

During their meeting, Miller told Hays her paycheck would increase and she would be given a written agreement soon.

Afterwards, Hays attempted to follow up with Miller, to no avail. Hays finally resigned in January 2018.

Hays also accuses her employers of infringing on her copyrighted material. Since her resignation from Skull's Rainbow Room, she claims they have continued to use, copy, distribute and perform publicly her burlesque show script.

Additionally, Hays says Skull's has continued to use a picture of her to promote the business. The picture was taken by a professional photographer, whose copyright mark is said to have been removed from the version Skull's uses.

On July 2 this year, the defendants' attorneys sent a letter to Hays' attorneys, offering their rebuttal to the claims made in the lawsuit. The defendants claim Hays approved use of her photo for two placements: a rack card for hotels and visitor centers, and a public display of the picture in bathroom stalls at Nissan Stadium. The former placement's contract is said to have expired in May 2018, at which point, no more rack cards were printed. The contract for placement in Nissan Stadium is said to have ended in February 2019.

Skull's Rainbow Room's attorneys say Hays never requested the licenses for each placement be terminated.

Attorneys for Skulls are confident they will win this case. Attorney Lauren Kilgore, released the following statement to NewsChannel 5:

"The current owners categorically deny the allegations in the complaint and otherwise, and are confident they will win this case. Despite her sensationalized story, the only claims in the lawsuit relate to alleged use of a scripted dialogue for a burlesque show, alleged use of a photograph of an unidentified individual in a marketing campaign, and Ms. Hays’ claim she did not receive fair compensation for her services. At the time she resigned, Ms. Hays was being paid over $9,600 a week. The defamatory allegations designed to get the media’s attention appear nowhere in Ms. Hays’ lawsuit, which is designed, obviously, to generate publicity."