Record label EMI is tightening its grip on the personal assets of Michael Robertson, the longtime tech entrepreneur, maverick, and founder of MP3tunes.com.
MP3tunes.com, a pioneering cloud music service, fought a five-year long copyright battle with EMI before going bust last month. In the lawsuit against MP3tunes and Robertson, EMI claimed that the company encouraged users to pirate copyright songs. After nearly five years of legal maneuvering, MP3tunes ran out of money.
Neither Robertson nor representatives from EMI were available for comment. We'll update as soon as we hear back.
After MP3tunes filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection, the court permanently stayed the case. Robertson then asked the court to stay the complaint against him. Today, the judge denied his request.
This is not good news for Robertson, who also founded MP3.com, Linspire, and Dar.fm.
Last August, U.S. District Judge William Pauley found MP3tunes and Robertson liable for contributory infringement (for not honoring a request to remove songs from the service that had been identified by EMI as pirated). The judge also found Robertson liable for direct infringement for personally downloading unauthorized music.
According to published reports, Robertson could end up paying as much as $75 million in damages although that figure sounds high.
Mark Gorton, the founder of LimeWire, only paid $105 million in damages and that service distributed a lot more music than MP3tunes.com, which never really found an audience. Before being ordered to shut down in 2010, LimeWire was among the most trafficked file-sharing services.
In 2007, Kazaa, one of the pioneering peer-to-peer services, was forced to write a check for $100 million to settle its copyright dispute with the major labels. In 2004, iMesh, a peer-to-peer service, paid the Recording Industry Association of America $4 million in damages.
Testing copyright law can be expensive.