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EMI Sues Bertelsmann in Latest Napster Backlash

The Napster fallout continued this week as music label EMI Record Music filed suit against Bertelsmann AG, arguing that the German media conglomerate's investment in the file-sharing system led to the infringement of EMI's copyrights.

The new legal action marks the third in a series of suits filed by record companies who feel their music was illegally downloaded and traded in peer-to-peer file-sharing.

EMI claims Bertelsmann's investment in Napster in 2000 kept the service alive for another year, enabling people to continue to illegally download and swap EMI-owned songs.

"By investing both millions of dollars and management resources in Napster which was an illegal enterprise built on the unlawful distribution of copyrighted works Bertelsmann enabled and encouraged the wholesale theft of copyrighted music," EMI said in a public statement.

Filed in U.S. District court in New York, the suit asks for $150,000 for each copyrighted song that was shared under Napster, which a federal judge shut down in California in 2001.

The suit marks the third plea against Bertelsmann, which was sued for the same reason by a group of songwriters and two independent music publishers -- Frank Music and Peer International -- for $17 billion last February. Universal Music Group, who along with EMI is one of the giant Big 5 record company businesses, followed with its own suit and similar claims in May.

In 2000, Bertelsmann pumped more than $90 million worth of investments into the peer-to-peer firm as part of the media company's plans to create a legitimate online music subscription service. But that was three years ago and many lawsuits and liability shifts later.

Despite the legal troubles that thrive long after Napster was shuttered by court action, Napster's own groundbreaking technology has survived. Its technological assets were picked up by CD burning business Roxio in an auction last November.

Roxio announced plans to make Napster a legitimate service in February. In May, Roxio purchased major label-backed Pressplay, pledging to combine to combine that technology with the Napster brand to relaunch Napster.