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Publisher Win $6.6 Million From Greenspan Lyrics Websites

Music publishers including Warner Music Group won a $6.6 million judgment in a copyright lawsuit against song lyrics websites run by Brad Greenspan, one of the developers of the MySpace online social network.

U.S. District Judge George Wu ruled that LiveUniverse and its founder Greenspan must pay damages of $12,500 for each of 528 songs infringed on the websites, in an order dated Oct. 9 in federal court in Los Angeles.

“Defendants have willfully infringed upon plaintiffs’ copyrights, even after being sanctioned, both by this court and Magistrate Judge Abrams,” Wu said in his default judgment order. “Their blatant disregard for the civil justice system favors a substantial damages award.”

He also issued a permanent injunction barring Greenspan from offering song lyrics online without licenses from copyright holders.

Greenspan and his lawyer, Andrew Kislik, didn’t immediately respond to e-mails seeking comment on the ruling.

Music publishers Peermusic Ltd. Bug Music Inc. and Warner Chappell Music sued Greenspan in August 2009, claiming that his online sites provided the lyrics of copyrighted songs without authorization or payment to the owners. Wu issued his ruling without a trial.

Default Judgment

“The default judgment was based on the client’s misconduct in the litigation,” Paul Fakler, a lawyer with Arent Fox LLP who represented the publishers, said in a phone interview. “He was refusing to provide discovery. He failed to show up several times for depositions. After escalating contempt orders the judge finally defaulted the defendants.”

Fakler said that although the damages, which don’t include attorneys’ fees, are substantial, “we believe an even higher award would’ve been justified.”

The publishers had sought statutory damages of $100,000 for each song infringed. The songs included “China Girl” by David Bowie and “Moondance” by Van Morrison.

The case is Peermusic III Ltd. v. LiveUniverse Inc., 09-06160, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

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