EMI wins some, loses some in case against MP3tunes


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A New York district court handed EMI Group a mixed verdict on Monday in its multi-year lawsuit against MP3tunes, a San Diego music locker service founded by controversial technology entrepreneur Michael Robertson.

The lawsuit, filed in November 2007, contended that MP3tunes and Robertson personally violated copyright law when they allowed users to find music online and add songs to an online locker service that let them listen to those songs from any Internet connection.


MP3tunes argued that it qualified for a so-called safe harbor exemption under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which indemnifies select service providers from potentially illegal activities of their users.

The judge in the case, William H. Pauley, III, ruled that MP3tunes did qualify for safe harbor exemption when it responded to requests from EMI and other copyrightholders to ban links to sites known to distribute pirated music.

But the judge gave EMI a partial victory, saying that MP3tunes did not go far enough to enforce copyrights and that it also should have deleted the pirated songs from its users’ accounts.

EMI, in a statement, suggested it was considering an appeal. ‘We’re disappointed that the court found that MP3tunes was entitled to a safe harbor for some of its conduct under the DMCA. EMI believes that companies like MP3tunes, which knowingly build a business based on stolen music, should not be entitled to any DMCA safe harbor defense, and we’re evaluating our options to seek review of those portions of the decision.’

Robertson called the ruling a ‘victory for cloud music and MP3tunes’ business model.’ He noted that the judge found that MP3tunes did not promote infringement.

‘We’ve always operated our music service in a responsible manner, and because of that, the judge determined that MP3tunes has protection under the DMCA,’ Robertson said.

Still, Robertson and his company are on the hook for about 350 songs that it failed to delete after being notified by EMI and other copyright holders, down from 3,189 songs alleged in the EMI complaint. Each violation carries up to $30,000 in penalties, according to paidContent, making the ruling a potentially costly one.


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-- Alex Pham