Friday, November 17, 2006

Digital Media
Universal Music Sues MySpace
Louis Hau, 11.17.06, 6:30 PM ET

In Universal Music Group's latest legal salvo against Internet companies that use its music, the Vivendi subsidiary sued News Corp.'s MySpace Friday for copyright infringement.

The moves mark another twist in Universal's on-again, off-again battle against video- and music-sharing sites. In September, Universal chief Doug Morris threatened to sue sharing sites like MySpace and YouTube for cheating the company out of "tens of millions of dollars" by allowing users to post its videos on their sites. In October, Universal agreed to a pact with YouTube shortly before the site was acquired by Google, then sued Grouper, a site acquired by Sony in August, and privately held Bolt for similar infringements. (See: "Universal Takes On Video Sites.")

Universal had already made a partial peace with MySpace via a partnership earlier this year, under which the site was allowed to stream Universal music videos. In addition, MySpace said Oct. 30 that it had reached an agreement with Gracenote to block unauthorized uploads of copyrighted music.

But the sheer volume of member-uploaded music and video content was clearly not what Universal had in mind under its MySpace partnership. In a suit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Universal noted that songs from a forthcoming album from Universal recording artist Jay-Z are already widely available on MySpace.

Universal said it is seeking up to $150,000 in damages for each infringing piece of content.

"The foundation of MySpace is its so-called 'user-generated content,' '' Universal said in its suit. "However, much of that content is not 'user-generated' at all. Rather, it is the 'user-stolen' intellectual property of others, and MySpace is a willing partner in that theft."

In a statement responding to the suit, MySpace argued that it is "in full compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act" and that it does "not induce, encourage or condone" copyright violations.

"We have been keeping UMG closely apprised of our industry-leading efforts to protect creators' rights, and it's unfortunate they decided to file this unnecessary and meritless litigation,'' the statement said.