Digital download company EMusic filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against MP3.com Tuesday, claiming that the recently relaunched My.MP3.com service allows consumers to store music to which EMusic holds exclusive digital rights. Though MP3.com has settled its legal battles with five major record labels (Universal Music Group, EMI Recorded Music, Sony Music Group, BMG Entertainment and Warner Music Group), as well as music publishers -- an estimated total of $160 million in damages -- it had yet to address independent labels not represented by the Recording Industry Association of America.
At issue is MP3.com's database of some 80,000 songs that My.MP3.com members -- after proving that they had purchased the CD containing those tracks -- can access at will, storing digital versions of their own CDs. The service, which failed to get permission from labels and publishers, was suspended in May and was restored earlier this month, in free and subscription forms. The free service allows storage of twenty-five CDs, while the paid service (with its $49.95 annual fee) allows storage of up to 500 CDs.
Joining EMusic's suit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court in New York, were the company's independent label partners Fearless Records, Fuel 2000 Records, Gig Records, Invisible Records, SpinART Records and Victory Records. Larger independents associated with EMusic such as Epitaph were absent from the suit, though EMusic anticipates that more partner labels will follow in the action or settlement discussion. EMusic has partnerships with some 600 independent record labels to sell music over the Internet, with exclusive rights to approximately 13,000 albums (for full disclosure, EMusic is also partnered with RollingStone.com).
"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 President and CEO Gene Hoffman said. "EMusic strongly supports the rights of music fans to have access to convenient, inexpensive digital music -- as well as the rights of all labels and artists to choose how and where their music is used."
A spokesperson for MP3.com had no comment about the suit.