Judge halts BlueBeat's sale of Beatles tunes

Temporary restraining order finds BlueBeat's arguments "lacking in clarity" and sees the threat of irreparable harm to the copyright holders.

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Jon Skillings is an editorial director at CNET, where he's worked since 2000. A born browser of dictionaries, he honed his language skills as a US Army linguist (Polish and German) before diving into editing for tech publications -- including at PC Week and the IDG News Service -- back when the web was just getting under way, and even a little before. For CNET, he's written on topics from GPS, AI and 5G to James Bond, aircraft, astronauts, brass instruments and music streaming services.
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A court has hit pause on the sale of Beatles tunes from the Web site BlueBeat.

Judge John Walter of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California late this week issued a temporary restraining order against BlueBeat after being petitioned Tuesday by the Capitol Records unit of music label EMI, which owns the Beatles' recordings.

The judge found BlueBeat's arguments "lacking in clarity" and wrote that the defendants failed to offer reliable evidence to support "their claim that they 'independently developed their own original sounds'."

As Matt Rosoff wrote this week for CNET, BlueBeat's claims have a good likelihood of being laughed out of court. The company's defense includes the assertion that it didn't post the exact Beatles recordings, but rather "psychoacoustic simulations" to which it added some video content, thus creating a new audiovisual work.

BlueBeat was offering Beatles songs and albums for purchase or download for 25 cents per track, in addition to offering free streaming.

"Given that the Beatles catalog, including the remastered Beatles recordings, has never been released by Plaintiffs for digital download or licensed for on-demand streaming, every day that Defendants offer the Beatles catalog for digital download or licensed for on-demand streaming irreparably harms Plaintiffs' exclusive right to control the use of its copyright materials," the judge wrote in his order.

EMI was not available for comment, nor was BlueBeat, whose Web site has been offline throughout the day Saturday. Offline as well were BlueBeat owner Media Rights Technologies and an affiliated company called BaseBeat, both of which also are listed as defendants, along with MRT founder Hank Risan.

Besides Capitol Records, the plaintiffs include Caroline Records, EMI Christian Music Group, and Virgin Records America.

The court set a hearing for November 20.