More MP3 lyrical litigation

Songwriters say MyMP3 violated copyright

NEW YORK — Songwriters Randy Newman, Tom Waits and sisters Ann & Nancy Wilson of the ’80s group Heart jumped on the MP3.com litigation bandwagon Tuesday, suing the embattled Netco for $40 million in damages stemming from alleged copyright infringement.

The artists, repped by Los Angeles entertainment law firm Gradstein, Luskin & Van Dalsem, contend that MP3 violated the copyrights on “hundreds” of the plaintiffs’ songs in connection with the company’s My.MP3.com digital music locker service.

Suit, filed in U.S. 2nd District Court in California, seeks damages of $150,000 per work infringed by My.MP3 — the maximum penalty allowed by statute for “willful” infringement.

MP3.com is no stranger to infringement claims stemming from My.MP3. Company has already been sued in District Court in New York by all five major labels as well as powerful indies Jive Records and TVT Records and the National Music Publishers’ Assn., resulting in payouts so far totaling nearly $170 million.

Netco settled with four of the five majors for a reported $20 million each, but Universal Music held out longer and ended up with a $53.4 million judgment. All five deals included a license for My.MP3 to use the labels’ content on the service.The TVT action initially ended in a judgment for the label to the tune of $300,000. In a bizarre twist, however, it was revealed days later that the jury had erred in entering the figure, and that the real amount was actually $3 million. The Jive suit is ongoing.

MP3 also settled with the NMPA, inking a deal that could provide the org’s royalty clearinghouse arm, the Harry Fox Agency, with up to $30 million in royalty revenue.

But that deal doesn’t include songwriters who administer their own publishing rights — a group that includes the latest plaintiffs, said lead attorney Bruce E. Van Dalsem, who added that the songwriters will try to apply collateral estoppel — a legal doctrine under which the court can skip straight to the damages phase of the case if it’s already proved that MP3 willfully infringed on copyrights. TVT was granted estoppel in its New York case, based on the precedent set in the major-label trials.

Still, “MP3 is welcome to repeat the whole process again in L.A. if they really want to,” Van Dalsem said.

MP3 rep Greg Wilfahrt said the company hasn’t yet been served with the complaint but will respond “once we’ve had a chance to look over the allegations.”