MP3.com-Seagram trial postponed for one day

The company will now face trial Tuesday to determine how many of Universal Music Group's albums it improperly copied for use in its online music storage-locker service.

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MP3.com is scheduled to face trial Tuesday to determine how many of Universal Music Group's albums the start-up improperly copied for use in its ill-fated online music storage-locker service.

The trial was originally scheduled for Monday, but U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff adjourned the trial until Tuesday, according to one of his staff members. No reason was given for the adjournment.

Rakoff in September ruled that MP3.com willfully infringed Universal's copyrights and ordered the company to pay $25,000 per violated work. The actual number of violations will be determined in the next trial phase.

MP3.com estimated during the infringement trial that it used 4,700 Universal-copyrighted CDs in its My.MP3.com database. That number would equal damages upward of $118 million. Seagram-owned Universal pegged the number of violations at some 10,000 CDs, putting the potential damages as high as $250 million.

While MP3.com admits it used Universal's music, it argues that it isn't liable for damages, alleging that Universal's copyright registrations are invalid. MP3.com argues that Universal improperly registered recordings as works-for-hire, which gives the company indefinite control of artists' rights. But if it is found that some of the disputed CDs do not qualify as works-for-hire, MP3.com may receive less of a blow.

At issue is MP3.com's My.MP3.com service, which lets people listen to music from any Internet-enabled computer after they indicate they either bought the CD through an online retail partner or already own the disk. In creating the service, MP3.com copied thousands of CDs without first getting the consent of record labels, music publishers and artists.

MP3.com has entered individual settlements with the four other major labels and music publishers--Bertelsmann's BMG Entertainment, EMI Recorded Music, Sony Music Group and Warner Music Group--for undisclosed amounts. Universal was the only Big Five record company to pursue damages per infringed work.

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