MP3Board.com sues AOL, TW

Alleges partners fueled piracy via Gnutella

MP3Board.com, the target of a copyright infringement suit filed by the RIAA in New York federal court, has returned fire.

The Web firm has filed a lawsuit charging merger partners Time Warner and America Online with contributing to online music piracy by developing the file-sharing software Gnutella.

Created by programmers working for AOL subsid Nullsoft, Gnutella links users in a daisy chain and thereby eliminates the central server that makes embattled file-sharing company Napster such an easy legal target. When employees posted the code for Gnutella on the Internet, AOL quickly dubbed it an “unauthorized free-lance project” and jerked the data offline within hours. But in the interim, the code had been widely disseminated.

Bakersfield-based MP3Board.com’s filing contends that the company is not guilty of copyright infringement, but if the court determines that it is, Time Warner and AOL should pay part of any penalties levied because of what MP3Board.com claims is their role in fostering online piracy. As a result, MP3Board.com also asked the court to make Time Warner and AOL its co-defendants in the RIAA suit.

These are novel conceits, but legal experts believe they’re unlikely to prevail in court, where the main issue to be determined is whether MP3Board is liable for copyright infringement because its site contains hyperlinks to other publicly accessible Web sites that may contain infringing content.

MP3Board also argues that because these hyperlinks are created by automatic processes, the company isn’t liable — even though it posted songs under the heading “SuperIllegal MP3z.”

AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham told Daily Variety: “We haven’t seen the lawsuit or received any confirmation that a lawsuit has actually been filed, so we can’t comment specifically. However, as described, it would appear to be a lawsuit based more on desperation than it is in law.”