Court rules for NMPA in copyright battle with U

Label disagrees, plans appeal

A New York District Court judge handed the National Music Publishers Assn. a victory Wednesday in its copyright infringement battle against the world’s largest recorded music company, Universal Music Group, and its now-defunct online music startup Farmclub.com.

District Judge John S. Martin Jr. rejected Universal’s argument that a trial service offering digital music streams from UMG’s stable of artists to select Farmclub members was already covered by existing licensing agreements.

“It is clear that what defendants are attempting to do is to limit the payments due from them — for the streaming of recordings of copyrighted works to their customers — to the licensing fee that would be applicable when a radio station sends a recording over the airwaves,” the judge said in his ruling.

Appeal planned

A Universal Music rep said the major label group disagrees with the ruling and plans to file an appeal.

The District Court has not yet made a determination of any damages for the songs whose copyrights the NMPA says were violated. Statutory damages for willful copyright infringement could reach as high as $150,000 per work.

Ruling comes just days after reports emerged that music publishers reached a tentative agreement with the Recording Industry Assn. of America to provide a license for a group of forthcoming label-backed digital distribution offerings. Among the companies this pact would benefit is Pressplay, a nascent music subscription service backed in part by Universal Music.

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