Waits, Newman Sue MP3.com

Songwriters charge MP3.com with copyright infringement

May 9, 2001 12:00 AM ET

Tom Waits, Randy Newman, and Nancy and Ann Wilson of Heart filed a $40 million lawsuit against MP3.com on May 8th in Los Angeles citing copyright infringement.

In question is MP3.com's service My.MP3. The suit alleges that MP3.com willfully violated copyright law by copying "tens of thousands of compact discs onto its computer servers," as part of the My.MP3 service, thereby converting the tracks on the discs into MP3 files that could be registered and listened to via any computer on the Web. Particular songs named in the suit include Newman's "I Love L.A." and "Short People" as well as selections from Waits' Mule Variations.

"This is a case of artists banding together to protect their most valuable assets -- their songs," said attorney Bruce Van Dalsem of the law firm Gradstein, Luskin & Van Dalsem. "More successful songwriters of this caliber need to stand up against copyright infringement in order to protect their own rights and discourage the theft of music written by lesser-known artists who cannot afford to protect their smaller catalogs of work."

The plaintiffs are seeking "the maximum statutory damages available under the Copyright Act in the amount of $150,000 per infringement," stating that in the past lesser amounts have failed to thwart MP3.com from violating copyright law. A year ago, the company was ordered to shut down the My.MP3 service when found guilty of violating copyright laws by a U.S. District Court; at that time the suit was brought by the major record labels: Sony, Universal, BMG, Warner and EMI. In December, the service was re-launched when MP3.com struck a licensing deal with those labels.

While the major label's lawsuit focused on the master recordings of the songs, the new lawsuit filed by the artists focuses specifically on the compositions themselves.

At press time a representative of MP3.com said the company had not been served with the lawsuit and reserved comment.

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