A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that the website BlueBeat.com violated the Beatles' copyrights in 2009, when it briefly sold digital files of the band's music for 25 cents a copy.
The Beatles' catalog finally landed on iTunes last month, marking the first time that the band's music was officially available in digital form. But in 2009 BlueBeat briefly made the band's entire catalog available for download at 25 cents per song — a price much lower than iTunes' Beatles-standard price of $1.29 a track.
The site said that it sold 67,000 songs during the brief period between its launch and its court-ordered shutdown. The ruling did not specifically say how much money BlueBeat would have to pay in damages.
Hank Risan, the owner of BlueBeat, said that he should not have been charged with infringement because the versions of the Beatles' songs on his site were the result of "psycho-acoustic simulation," which resulted in unique versions of each song being produced. However, it turned out that the songs on BlueBeat.com actually came from Risan ripping CDs from his personal collection.
"Risan's obscure and undefined pseudo-scientific language appears to be a long-winded way of describing 'sampling,' i.e. copying, and fails to provide any concrete evidence of independent creation," Tucker wrote in her ruling.
The BlueBeat website was still streaming (though not selling) Beatles songs as of Friday afternoon, and the language about "licensed simulated performances" remains on the site.
Judge: Music website violated Beatles copyrights [Associated Press]