MP3.com, record labels sued by artists over royalties

The music Web site and several prominent record labels are sued in federal court by musicians who seek royalty payments for the distribution of their songs over the Internet.

NEW YORK--MP3.com and several prominent record labels were sued in federal court today by musicians who seek royalty payments for the distribution of their songs over the Internet.

The suit, filed by musicians who perform as The Chambers Brothers, The Coasters and The Original Drifters, seeks a ruling that neither MP3.com nor the record labels--Time Warner, Sony Corp. of America and two others--have the right to transmit their songs over the Internet.

The lawsuit comes nearly four months after a trade group representing the record labels sued MP3.com for distributing songs online. Lawrence Feldman, a Jenkintown, Penn., lawyer who brought the case, said the record labels' case protects the rights of only record companies, not artists.

"This is the first (case) where musicians have sued in their own name," Feldman said. "Remember the musicians."

The lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of other artists who have recorded records or CDs before 1995, when Congress passed a new digital copyright law.

Representatives for MP3.com, Time Warner and Sony could not be reached for comment.

The lawsuit centers around the activities of MP3.com. The San Diego-based company is alleged to have infringed the copyrights on 45,000 copyrighted recordings by digitally copying the tracks and allowing computer users to download them.

In its suit, the Recording Industry Association of America said MP3.com is violating copyright laws. On the heels of that case, the musicians are seeking a declaration that neither MP3.com nor the record labels have a right to transmit the recordings.

The musicians say the Internet transmission of their songs denies them royalty payments they are due under their record contracts.

The suit also seeks to stop MP3.com from advertising its service by using the artists' names.

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