- New York (Jan. 26)--The Recording Industry Association of
America RIAA) filed a federal lawsuit in a New York court late
last week against digital music provider MP3.com, accusing it
of massive copyright infringement through its new MyMP3.com service.
- The service, which allows users to maintain a password-protected
account with MP3.com of electronic copies of their personal CD
collection, involved the conversion of some 40,000 CDs to MP3
format by the website. When a user places a CD in his/her ROM
drive, the MP3.com service recognizes the CD and transfers an
MP3 copy of the disc's content to the user's account.
- "MP3.com constructed that database without making the
slightest attempt to obtain permission from the copyright owners
to do so," remarked Cary Sherman, RIAA senior executive
vice president and general counsel. "This is a blatant infringement
of rights, upsetting not only to record labels, but also large
numbers of artists, retailers and technology companies who have
business agreements with copyright owners....Frankly, it's astonishing
that a publicly-traded company would behave so recklessly."
- Michael Robertson, MP3.com CEO, countered, "My.MP3.com
provides more choices for consumers to do what they want with
the music they already own. Our technology also empowers artists
to communicate directly with their fan base. We believe My.MP3.com
will stimulate CD sales and expand the music industry overall."
- The RIAA's main beef is that its member companies gave no
consent to MP3.com to duplicate some 45,000 CDs in question,
and that MyMP3.com users are effectively accessing infringing
reproductions of copyrighted sound works. The organization is
seeking dizzying statutory damages of $150,000 per work infringed.
- MyMP3.com is currently a free service, but MP3.com has stated
its intent to make it into a subscription service that consumers
would pay for.
- RIAA president and CEO Hilary Rosen issued an open letter
to Robertson that argued, "Whatever the individual's right
to use their own music, you cannot exploit that for your company's
commercial gain." The letter goes on to cite a quote of
Robertson's from an industry report acknowledging that consumers
liked MP3.com's service, but wanted more mainstream music on
the site. "Obviously, you are not free to take protected
works simply because you want them," Rosen states.
- Robertson responded to Rosen with an open letter of his own,
which poses the question of who owns the music after the consumer
has bought a CD. "The RIAA's action tells all of these thousands
of consumers that they are not entitled to take their music into
the digital age," Robsertson's letter says. "Our service
is nothing more than a virtual CD player. It is a new and innovative
technology that lets people listen to their music. We have every
intention of fighting your efforts to dictate the way people
can use their music."
- Replication News