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Old 07-08-2009, 06:46 AM
Adam Krebs
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Default Microsoft, Yahoo, RealNetworks Sued Over Music Copyrights

<div class='os_post_top_link'><a href='' target='_blank'></a><br /><br /></div><p>"<em>The suit appears to have been initiated by Music Copyright Solutions (MCS), which claims to administer copyrights for more than 45,000 compositions. MCS is named as the lead plaintiff, along with a number of songwriters including Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad fame. These folks allege that Microsoft, Yahoo, and RealNetworks improperly licensed the rights to more than 200 compositions that they offered as on-demand streams or limited downloads via the Zune Marketplace, Yahoo Music, and Rhapsody. Surely these companies paid somebody for the rights to offer these songs. But there's a catch, which TechDirt </em><a href="" target="_blank"><em>pointed out</em></a><em> earlier Tuesday: these companies may have licensed the rights to the recordings, but that doesn't mean they licensed the rights to the compositions (also known as publishing rights).</em>"</p><p><img src="" style="border: #d2d2bb 1px solid;" /></p><p><em>Credit: ars technica</em></p><p>Chalk this one up to another ridiculous abuse of broken music copyright system. The plaintiffs are demanding $150,000 for each violation (for each&nbsp;recorded song - the six Greatest Hits versions of Conway Twitty's "Fifteen Years Ago" would consitute $900,000 in damages alone) or the amount the companies earned from streaming these songs, whichevever is more. This sets a disturbing precident in downloadable music, where none of these companies can afford to lose the case. If all damages are awarded, the 200 violations could end up costing somewhere in the range of billions of dollars, which is why a settlement for far less money is likely to occur. But this case, and the similar trial against <a href="" target="_blank">Jammie Thomas-Rasset</a>&nbsp;(where the defendant was ordered to pay $80,000 in damages <em>per song</em>)&nbsp;raises the point: if the penalties are so outrageously high that they aren't going to be enforced, why bother having them on the lawbooks in the first place? Everyone deserves to be paid for their work, but today's broken copyright system clearly&nbsp;misses the point in many ways. It's&nbsp;time to&nbsp;get with the 21st century and abandon the sheet music-based&nbsp;system of years past. &nbsp;</p>
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Old 07-08-2009, 01:27 PM
Felix Torres
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 1,887

Well, the reason copyright violation penalties are so high is that they were put in place to target high-volume commercial counterfeiters, not low level foolish "civilians" ignorantly abusing technology because "everybody does it" and then stubbornly insisting they be left off the hook even after getting caught "in flagrante". And refusing to settle for essentially trivial sums thereby forcing everybody (even us taxpayers) to pay for trial after trial. Thomas now insists on a third trial simply because the damages for her willful behavior was set at *half* what the law allows for willful and intentional violation. Doubt she'll get it but even if she does, she's likely to get hit with a US$4 million award instead. These are not good times to be arguing for sympathy for idiots in the courts.

Which is to say the two scenarios are really different.

The Micro-Hoo-Real suit isn't really about copyrights at its core but rather about licensing and contracts. When it comes to licencing music there is no one-stop-shopping; different rights to the same song are managed by different organizations and the various licensors overlap at times and have non-overlapping holes in their catalogs.

Considering the sheer size of the catalogs that outfits like Apple, Microsoft, and Yahoo offer up and the byzantine nature of music licensing (royalties have to go to the studio, the artist, the composer, and the janitor of the studio, each negotiated separately, on a song-per-song basis with different right and rates for downloads, streams, or even covers, with rights disputed between multiple licensors) it is hardly surprising that the rights-holders for a few hundred songs (or even a few thousand) might be disputed. Notice that the charge is *improperly licensed*. In other words, they're claiming that whoever negotiated with the targeted trio didn't have the right to license those songs. Bet that whoever took the licensing money gets dragged into court next...

This being a shyster-vs-shyster thing its not really significant except for the meaningless numbers tossed about.

I would not be shocked to see the defendants fight it out in court just to see a jury award damages for a $1 total. (Remember, they're suing over *streaming* fees that run a thousandth of a cent per performance.)

Standard corporate litigation tactic: sue for billions, settle for thousands.

Last edited by Felix Torres; 07-08-2009 at 01:36 PM..
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Old 07-08-2009, 11:32 PM
Jason Dunn
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The entire royalty system we have in place now is too complex - it needs to be flattened out and simplified. I'm all for artists getting paid, but this is ridiculous...
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