RIAA files lawsuit vs. webcasters

The record industry lobbed yet another legal grenade Friday in its continuing scuffle with Webcasters, filing separate complaints of copyright infringement against Web streaming services run by the MTVi Group, MusicMatch, and Xact Radio.

The suits, filed by the Recording Industry Assn. of America in U.S. district court for the southern district of New York, seeks to enjoin the netcos from providing those services, as well as statutory damages of $150,000 per work infringed.

The RIAA’s actions follow hot on the heels of a court filing by the Digital Media Assn. (DiMA), which includes the three defendants in the RIAA’s suit.

DiMA’s complaint, filed in San Francisco district court, sought a declaratory judgment clearing the way for its members to get a flat-rate statutory license to offer customizable streaming services. The RIAA opposes including these services on the list currently under consideration for a statutory license by the U.S. Copyright Office.

The Webcaster’s org in turn logged its complaint in response to a still earlier RIAA suit against Launch Media — another DiMA member — over its LaunchCast service, which lets users rate music and then personalizes its offerings based on their tastes.

Aiming for inclusion

RIAA general counsel Cary Sherman characterized his org’s latest filing as a defensive move in response to the DiMA complaint, adding that all of the complaints should be consolidated and aired in Manhattan.

“DiMA’s decision to sue left us with little choice but to take this action,” he said. “A district court in New York is already considering this issue, and these related cases should be heard in the same forum.”

Separately, The RIAA announced it had cut a deal with netcaster Listen.com, a DiMA member and one of the plaintiffs named in that group’s complaint. Listen will pull out of the suit and take down the parts of its streaming service to which the labels have objected.

Synergistic exception

The RIAA’s suits against MusicMatch and Xact were backed by all five major labels, but Warner Music and Universal Music chose to sit out the complaint against MTVi because of concerns over existing partnerships with the company.

DiMA executive director Jonathan Potter said the RIAA suits were typical of the org’s aggressive history of litigation against online music startups.

DiMA “is disappointed that the recording industry has chosen to initiate another in a long line of lawsuits,” he said. “Rather than wait for the courts to decide, the recording industry has initiated unnecessary and punitive actions against Webcasters over an honest dispute of the Copyright Act.”

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