CBS Interactive sued over CNET software

Entrepreneur, artists target conglom on copyright issue

A colorful digital entrepreneur and a group of rap and hip-hop artists are suing CBS Interactive, claiming that its CNET subsidiary gave access to software that led to the growth of illegal file-sharing.

The suit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, is not a surprise: Alki David, the entrepreneur, has said he planned to pursue such action as CBS and other broadcasters worked to halt streaming services offered by one of his companies, FilmOn. Last fall, FilmOn began offering live streams of broadcast stations to its subscribers, but a federal judge in New York ordered that many of its offerings be halted as broadcasters pursued copyright claims.

David has taken to YouTube to rail against CBS, and he launched a site called Viaconned accusing the company of duplicity.

His suit, which also includes 14 rappers and other artists as plaintiffs, charges that CNET helped drive the growth of LimeWire and other peer-sharing sites via the dissemination of software on CNET’s Download.com. LimeWire, also named as a defendant in David’s suit, lost a key ruling last year when a federal judge ruled that it “intentionally encouraged direct infringement” by its users because its software was used to obtain unauthorized music on a “massive scale.” A trial is currently under way to determine damages owed to the major record labels.

David’s suit claims that “approximately 95% of LimeWire downloads occurred via Download.com.”

“Download.com did not refuse to list LimeWire on its site and did not require that the LimeWire defendants include filters or other protections against copyright infringement,” the suit states. “Other P2P clients underwent a similarly streamlined approval process for infringement software.”

The suit seeks unspecified damages and injunctive relief.

CBS said in a statement, “This latest move by Mr. David is a desperate attempt to distract copyright holders like us from continuing our rightful claims. His lawsuit against CBS affiliates is riddled with inaccuracies, and we are confident we will prevail, just as we did in the injunction hearing involving his company.”