MP3.com sued over copyrights

RIAA files suit in N.Y. federal court

The RIAA has fired the latest shot to echo through cyberspace in the battle over content control, filing suit in New York federal court Friday against MP3.com.

On Jan. 12, MP3.com announced it would allow consumers to purchase CDs from partner e-tailers and access them instantly via their My.MP3.com accounts — and would enable consumers to transfer their existing collections of CDs into their My.MP3.com accounts and then access this material from anywhere.

In its suit, the Recording Industry Assn. of America claims that MP3.com has made these new services possible by building a database of sound recordings for whose use in this manner the company has not obtained permission from the copyright owners. (The consumer’s personal CD has to match up with the 40,000 titles in MP3.com’s database for the system to work.)

In a prepared statement, MP3.com CEO Michael Robertson said he was “disappointed by the RIAA’s action,” claiming that “My.MP3.com provides more choices for consumers” and “MP3.com will stimulate CD sales and be a financial boon for the music industry overall.”

According to EMusic.com chair Bob Kohn, author of “Kohn on Music Licensing,” there is no legal basis for what MP3 has done. If the matter were to go to court, Kohn warned that RIAA could seek between $600 million and $24 billion in damages. Since MP3 has a market capitalization of about $2 billion, an adverse ruling could result in “the train wreck of a public company,” he said.

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