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MP3Tunes Fights EMI’s Funky Lawsuit Music

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A lawsuit brought forth by recording industry giant EMI against MP3Tunes again raises some fundamental questions about digital music ownership and link aggregation.

EMI calls MP3Tunes and subsidiary Sideload.com "willful infringement of copyright over the Internet," a claim that MP3Tunes CEO and founder Michael Robertson denies. Robertson equates Sideload to an audio search engine that links to where users can find music, similar to Google.

On his blog yesterday, Robertson describes Sideload this way:

Sideload is an audio search engine. It has links to audio files and shows you where those files are on the net. Sideload does not host any files. There are many, many such search engines….Many people simply use Google, which is likely the biggest audio search engine in the world. Any complaint against Sideload could be leveled against Google, Yahoo, MSN, and Ask since they all have links to song files.

Another point of contention in the lawsuit is MP3Tune’s Music Locker, an online storage service. While EMI contends that MP3Tunes makes unauthorized copies of digital audio files, Robertson differentiates by noting that users who own their music can store it on whatever device they please. Lockers are protected by user names and passwords, he adds, so they aren’t publicly accessible.

One interesting point of distinction in EMI’s suit, though, is that Sideload advertises on its site "Free Music On The Internet" and "424,337 Free tracks from 42,991 Artists." Additionally, any of the songs listed on the website can be listened to without leaving the website, which may make it different from Google’s services.

Then again, indexing has held up in court over the years, which is, technically, copying Internet files. But it may not play in Robertson’s favor that he offered to remove the links EMI complained about before lawsuits were filed. EMI attorneys wanted "substantial" compensation instead.

It’s been just seven years since Robertson was sued by the music industry. The 2000 case, a row over MP3.com, was settled for $100 million and Robertson eventually sold MP3.com to Vivendi for just shy of $400 million. Vivendi then flipped the domain to CNet.

But Robertson notes the difference between his former business at MP3.com and his current business at MP3Tunes. In the late 1990′s, MP3.com hosted music files and they could be downloaded directly. MP3Tunes, he says, does not host any music files. 

Robertson has described this new lawsuit as "retaliatory" after he filed suit against EMI to seek declaratory judgment that his business model is legitimate. EMI filed its suit shortly thereafter.

In interviews, Robertson has accused record labels of rushing to sue online music companies as lawyers seek to up their billable hours via drawn-out litigation. Instead, he says the recording industry should be looking to new ways of distribution in a more cooperative spirit.

He references specifically a technology developed through MP3.com that converted purchased CDs to MP3 files for listening while customers waited for the CD to be shipped. But the RIAA saw my.mp3.com as an illegal database of some 45,000 CDs.

"If the music industry would have adopted this technology, it could have extended the life of the CD another 10 years," he writes. "But, it chose to sue MP3.com and missed a golden opportunity — CD sales are down a staggering 60 percent since that time. While MP3.com may be an interesting footnote in digital music history, MP3tunes is an entirely different company with different technology."

Though that argument didn’t convince the judge back in 2000, Robertson is banking that his new service is covered by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, that it counts as an audio search engine, and that people have the right to store the music they own in whatever form and on whatever device they choose.  

MP3Tunes Fights EMI’s Funky Lawsuit Music
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  • sofakingdabest

    MP3Tunes has deep pockets. That’s the only reason EMI is doing anything…

  • http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com Jeff S.

    It seems an AWFUL LOT of people seem to forget the definition of “copying”, which is to make an EXACT DUPLICATE of something…
    UNLESS you are making a direct transfer from the ORIGINAL MASTER RECORDING, you are NOT, in the true spirit of the definition, making a “copy”…
    If you are “compressing” the recording by transcoding it to MP3, you have NOT made a “copy” you have made a “facsimile”, therefore it is NOT subject to coverage…
    Anytime you make a transcode using most any of the recent transcoders, you incur losses, ask ANY digital expert…
    I have been in the Electronics field for 35 years, and in Television for over 12, I used to be involved in “Pressing Vinyl” for Albums in the old days, and we ran into similar problems with it, as well… No “pressing” was ever sonically as good as the original plate, but we did as best we could with the equipment we had, and I suspect, in 50 years, someone ELSE will be saying the very same thing about OUR time, so don’t think this is a recent problem…
    I fault the record labels themselves, for the most part, primarily for being run by a conglomerate of old men who have no working grasp of the current technologies available to them, and for being too lazy to adapt their business models to encompass the new technologies, rather than villify them, and stifling the artists themselves in the process…
    NO WONDER more and more, artists are turning to people like me to release their art, or, are producing it themselves…

  • Nate

    CD sales are down for two reasons:
    #1 90% of the new music that the mainstream record labels are trying to cram down our throats S U C KS ! ! !
    #2 Nobody but old people listen to, or buy CD’s anymore. It’s as simple as that.

    The old dinosaurs in the recording industry can make all the claims they want, and they can sue everyone in the world, but the facts on the street aren’t going to change in their favor anytime soon. In fact, the labels have already shot themselves in the foot so bad they may never recover (fingers crossed). And jumping on the phony “indy” bandwagon isn’t the right move either (makes me laugh).

    Online music sites, especially radio sites, should just start their own labels. Fight fire with fire. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!!! Imagine this future scene… the biggest [new] recording labels are band friendly, and internet friendly, and actually allow their bands to promote their own music… and the bands can actually get air [internet] play on the major internet stations… and restaurants and online sites don’t have to pay, or worry about getting sued, just to play (promote) the music… and there are no more CDs at all, just copyright free MP3s… that listeners can purchase right from the internet stataion that’s playing it… all for the low monthly [listening] subscription rate of $9.95… what a concept. Pretty soon (knock wood) there would be no more nazi-like labels, the RIAA’s only standing members would be Lawrence Welk fans, [good] bands will be making money, and the general listening public (Remember them, Labels?!) might [eventually] get to hear some good music again!

  • http://www.msn.com fjb

    It seems to me when someone makes money at something someone else wants to destroy it. It

  • Peter Morffew

    It shows that we are all at the mercy of the Music industry.
    If you have your own storage space with your ISP and you choose to upload tracks for your own use you might still be hauled into court by the likes of EMI, etc.
    It seems that the music copyright has no bounderies.
    Once the music industry finds a ISP has music stored on a server the ISP could find themselves in court. If they fail to get the ISP then they chase after the owner of the storage space, even if it is protected by a ID name and password.

    Alas the music industry wants its cake and to eat it without having to share any of it wihtout fleecing you.
    it seems that any new approach to sharing music is blocked with lawsuits and hugely crippling fines imposed by judges who appear to be in the music industries pocket.
    Of course then there is the lawyer who most probably sit’s in a office when there is no work on to find places on the internet that stores music and then run’s off to a record label to get a lawsuit started.

    The big question is how deep is Google involved in this sort of stuff?
    Google has its own music on line, which is also a search engine .
    Google could quite easily use its spiders to find music on a server, check the owner and then pass the information onto a record label. Google would then be serving its own interests but not be involved in any messy court cases.

  • http://www.prescriptionrecording.com Mike S

    It’s my opinion that yes, absolutly EMI is right to file suit. Offering “free music” to the public that they do not own any rights to is blatent copyright infringement. Even if he doesn’t store it. It’s the same as breaking in to my recording studio and allowing the public access to my files without my permission or the artists permission. What is being stolen here is intelectual property, not a storage medium. It is my opinion mp3.com is at least facilitating copyright infringement by the public, and could also be illegally exploiting these artists by using them to make their website more popular or profitable. If you musicians want to have a musical career or for your sons and daughters to have one this has to be stopped or their won’t be any more music careers for anyone. Also by saying the music industry should consider more methods of distribution is another admission of guilt. That’s what they are claiming to be right? And it’s not just the words and music from the artist that are under copyright protection, it’s also the sound recording or mix (sound production) of that particular performance that is also under copyright protection, which is really being violated here too.

  • http://steelhorsenews.com Michael Walrath

    I think that it should be that the search engines should only be allowed to index and store a snippet or maybe the title of a song for indexing purposes. I also think that the use of copyrighted material is just wrong unless a person has bought or traded a service in exchange to use the copyrighted material. As fare as I know recorded music is copy written. Just like you and me every one in the music industry works hard for their money. You don

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