Universal Sues Fox Over MySpace Downloads

Universal Music Group (UMG) sued News Corp.’s MySpace subsidiary late on Friday, claiming that the social networking site has been indifferent to copyright violations of Universal’s songs and videos.

In the suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, UMG claims that MySpace and its parent corporation, News Corp., have built MySpace through “rampant copyright infringement – infringement they fostered, induced and welcomed.” A copy of the lawsuit is available here on FindLaw.com.

“Businesses that seek to trade off on our content, and the hard work of our artists and songwriters, shouldn’t be free to do so without permission and without fairly compensating the content creators,” UMG said in a statement.

The lawsuit further alleges that MySpace encourages copyright infringement of Universal artists, and not paying a royalty, by offering features such as sharing music files and reformatting music and videos to play better in Web browsers.

“MySpace should be protected so long as its terms include the take-down provisions called for under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act,” said Nate A. Garhart, intellectual property attorney and partner with Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass LLP in San Francisco.

The DMCA exempts ISPs  from liability due to the postings of their users so long as they provide the content owner with a mechanism by which the owner can easily demand that the allegedly infringed materials be removed from the site.

“In the event that MySpace has posted the necessary information and followed the procedures called for under the DMCA, it should be immune to liability for the infringing postings of its users,” Garhart said in a statement emailed to internetnews.com.

The suit seeks damages of $150,000 per song or video posted on MySpace and 60 alleged copyright violations. UMG estimates there are tens of millions more songs and videos on MySpace pages as well. The suit seeks an injunction on MySpace from further distributing any copyright-infringing material.

UMG is the largest music label in the world, with 25 percent of worldwide sales. Its parent company is the French media conglomerate Vivendi. This is its third lawsuit in a month concerning its intellectual property. In October, it sued the Web sites Grouper and Bolt.

MySpace has become a popular means for artists to communicate directly with their fans, and many bands post their own music, but the issue of copyright has been a sticky one as the site has grown in popularity.

At the end October, MySpace posted a software tool block and remove unauthorized software. And in September, it partnered with Snocap to provide a legitimate means to sell music online.

Late on Friday, MySpace issued a response, claiming that it provides “an extraordinary promotion platform for artists” and that is has been working with UMG in its efforts to protect artist copyrights.

“We are in full compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and have no doubt we will prevail in court,” said a company spokesperson in a statement.

“Moreover, we proactively take steps to filter unauthorized music sound recordings and have implemented audio fingerprinting technology. We will continue working to be the gold standard in protecting creators’ rights as well as the world’s leading lifestyle portal.”

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