EMI Group Ltd. won a partial victory in a copyright lawsuit against the online music storage site MP3tunes LLC, which was found liable for contributory infringement.
U.S. District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan ruled today that MP3tunes contributed to infringement when it failed to remove unauthorized songs from its website after being informed about them.
“Users of MP3tunes unlawfully copied songs from unauthorized third-party websites,” Pauley wrote in his order. Pauley also ruled that Michael Robertson, MP3tunes’s founder and chief executive officer, was liable for direct infringement for personally transferring songs digitally from websites that weren’t authorized to provide them.
EMI and other music companies have taken websites to court in attempts to reduce losses caused by people sharing songs online without paying for them. In May, the music industry reached a $105 million settlement with Lime Wire LLC for copyright infringement, while the case was on trial in federal court in New York.
Pauley, agreeing with MP3tunes that the safe harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act protected it, ruled against EMI on some claims. The safe harbor protection doesn’t apply to instances in which MP3tunes users got songs from unauthorized sites and stored them on the San Diego-based company’s website, the judge said.
The judge also rejected EMI’s request for a ruling that MP3tunes employees were liable for infringement by downloading 171 songs.
“The court’s decision confirms that businesses cannot simply pay lip service to the law while undermining the rights of the musicians, artists and writers that create popular music,” Dylan Jones, a spokesman for London-based EMI, said in an e-mail. “The decision also proves that company executives that personally contribute to and commit copyright infringement will be held accountable for their actions.”
Jones said the company is evaluating its options for seeking review of the decision that that MP3tunes was protected by the so-called safe harbor defense.
Robertson didn’t have an immediate comment on the ruling.
EMI is owned by New York-based Citigroup Inc. (C), which is trying to sell it.
The case is Capitol Records v. MP3tunes LLC, 07-09931, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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