Ex-MP3tunes chief held liable in music copyright case

Wed Mar 19, 2014 7:08pm EDT
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By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The former chief executive of bankrupt online music storage firm MP3tunes was found liable Wednesday for infringing copyrights for sound recordings, compositions and cover art owned by record companies and music publishers once part of EMI Group Ltd.

A federal jury in Manhattan found Michael Robertson, the former MP3tunes chief executive, and the defunct San Diego-based company liable on various claims that they infringed on copyrights associated with artists including The Beatles, Coldplay and David Bowie.

The jurors also found MP3tunes was willfully blind to copyright infringement on its website, in what a lawyer for the recording companies suggested before the verdict would be the first ruling by a jury of its kind.

The verdict marked a victory for the music industry in its long-running legal battle against online content providers, which it accuses of illegally selling its works without permission, costing revenue and profit.

Jurors will now decide how much in damages should be awarded after the verdict and an earlier ruling by the judge finding them liable on certain copyright claims. The damages phase is expected to run two to three days.

Both Ira Sacks, a lawyer for Robertson, and Andrew Bart, a lawyer for the EMI recording labels, declined to comment. Frank Scibilia, a lawyer for the EMI publishing companies, did not respond to a request for comment.

Founded in 2005 and once known as a website selling independent musicians' songs, MP3tunes came to be known for its so-called cloud music service that allowed users to store music in online lockers.

EMI, however, contended in its 2007 lawsuit that the San Diego-based company's website and a related one called Sideload.com enabled the infringement of copyrights in sound recordings, musical compositions and cover art.   Continued...

Michael Robertson (R), CEO of MP3.com, testifies before a Senate Judiciary committee on Capital Hill on the future of digital music, July 11, while Hank Barry (C), CEO of Napster Inc. and Roger McGuinn, member and co-founder of the band The Byrds, listen. MMR/RCS