EMusic and its label partners allege that MP3.com's controversial My.MP3.com music locker infringes on their copyrighted works. The lawsuit comes after MP3.com settled or was ordered to resolve separate lawsuits with the Big Five record labels: Universal Music Group, EMI Recorded Music, Sony Music Group, BMG Entertainment and Warner Music Group.
"Although MP3.com has entered into settlement agreements with the five major record labels, they have chosen to ignore their infringing actions with respect to independent record labels," EMusic chief executive Gene Hoffman said in a statement.
The center of this legal fight is My.MP3.com, which lets people listen to digital versions of their CDs on their computers. MP3.com stumbled into a legal hornet's nest when it created a database of some 80,000 songs that could be fed to My.MP3.com members who proved they had purchased the CD containing those tracks.
Earlier this month, MP3.com relaunched My.MP3.com in two forms: one free, and one paid. The paid version allows storage of up to 500 CDs for a $49.95 annual fee. The free service is advertising-based and lets people store only 25 CDs.
Nevertheless, MP3.com has been embroiled in legal trouble for nearly a year.
A judge in New York ruled in favor of the record labels' lawsuit which, like EMusic's lawsuit Tuesday, alleged copyright infringement. The penalties were costly. MP3.com eventually agreed to settlement arrangements and was forced to strike licensing deals in which it must pay a fee for each song streamed onto its members' PCs. Universal, however, won a consent judgment that required MP3.com to pay $53.4 million to the label.
Music publishers also have weighed in on the litigation. MP3.com in October announced a three-year, $30 million licensing agreement with the National Music Publishers' Association's subsidiary, The Harry Fox Agency.
This is not the first time EMusic has taken a stance against copyright infringement. In November, the company released software to block Napster members from sharing its music files. The software searches and identifies its songs on Napster and sends a warning to people who try to distribute those tracks.