EMI claimed music site sold remastered tracks

A federal judge in Los Angeles has ruled that a Northern California website that sold downloads of the Beatles’ songs for 25¢ apiece last year committed copyright infringement.

Last November, EMI Music, which controls the Beatles’ recordings, sued Santa Cruz-based Media Rights Technologies, claiming that the company’s site Bluebeat.com was brazenly selling pirated versions of the band’s recently remastered tracks (Daily Variety, Nov. 6, 2009).

The label group also claimed that music by other top EMI acts — Pink Floyd, Coldplay, Radiohead, Norah Jones, Bonnie Raitt, the Beach Boys and the Beastie Boys — was being marketed without permission on Bluebeat.

A restraining order was granted, and Bluebeat took down the tracks and temporarily suspended operation.

At the time, the Fab Four’s music had never been made available for legal sale online. In November, the group signed an exclusive pact with Apple’s iTunes store to sell its digital downloads.

Media Right Technologies CEO Hank Risan had claimed the tracks on the site were unique “psycho-acoustic simulations” of the Beatles’ music as it would be heard in live performance.

However, U.S. District Court Judge Josephine Staton Tucker found no merit in Risan’s argument.

“Risan’s obscure and undefined pseudo-scientific language appears to be a long-winded way of describing ‘sampling,’ i.e. copying, and fails to provide any concrete evidence of independent creation,” Tucker wrote in her Wednesday ruling.

Monetary damages in the case are to be determined.

Phone and email messages to Bluebeat’s attorney, Archie Robinson, were not immediately returned. An EMI spokesman could not be reached.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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