Just when you thought it was safe to get back in the music biz, Universal Music reminds us that it's never too late to alienate allies. MySpace was bought by News Corp for $580 million, and now UMD wants to take just about all of it. They claimed MySpace as "a vast virtual warehouse for pirated copies of music videos and songs," and is suing for close to $1 Billion.
Last month UMD made a deal with MySpace to play it cool with them in exchange for their promise to do whatever they can to prevent infringement through use of their service. Apparently they are not doing enough. Now UMD is suing and asking for the max: $150,000 per infringement. At this rate, with the tens of thousands of sites that use unauthorized content, MySpace will be forced into a dot com retirement home.
The UMD suit comes almost to the day that MySpace claims the release of a tool that will alert copyright holders that they are being jacked. MySpace would then remove any of the infringing content. This is in concert with the already in place Gracenote fingerprinting technology that supposedly prevents the posting of unauthorized music. "Clearly it doesn't," says UNI, "The foundation of MySpace is its so-called 'user-generated content.' However, much of that content is not 'user-generated' at all. Rather, it is 'user-stolen.'" The suit cites major stars like U2, 50 Cent, and Prince as acts whose recordings have allegedly been posted without permission on the site.
Now we know that UMD is just looking out for their artists. Yeah we know that. And we know that they are legally in the right. But jees. MySpace is the best thing to come along for artists to promote themselves without a major label. Oh wait!!! Could that be a motivation for UMD to sue?
MySpace claims, "We are in full compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and have no doubt we will prevail in court." They are referring to the DMCA's so-called "safe-harbor provision" which says that a dot com host is not responsible for what gets posted on its server; a defense that has thus far not impressed Courts. Can you say, Napster, Nutella, Kazaa and Grokster.
Representing the UMG plaintiffs are Steven Marenberg, Elliot Brown and Gregory Fayer of Los Angeles' Irell & Manella.
The case is UMG Recordings Inc. v. MySpace Inc., 06cv07361.
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