Judge approves music in the cloud

Cloud music services aren’t liable for illegal music held on them by users, a US judge has ruled.

Judge approves music in the cloud

A federal judge narrowed a lawsuit by EMI and 14 record companies and music publishers that accused MP3tunes of letting users copy their songs without permission.

US District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan said MP3tunes and its chief executive, Michael Robertson, did not violate the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in permitting downloads, except as to songs specifically identified as having been pirated.

In essence, he said it was users rather than MP3tunes that were responsible for any infringements.

Users can still download songs from publicly available websites, and store them without a separate license fee

“While a reasonable person might conclude after some investigation that the websites used by MP3tunes executives were not authorised to distribute EMI’s copyrighted works, the DMCA does not place the burden of investigation on the internet service provider,” Pauley wrote.

MP3tunes is a so-called cloud music service that lets users store music in online lockers. Amazon.com, Apple and Google have or are developing similar services.

“This is a huge victory,” said Greg Gulia, a partner at Duane Morris who represents MP3tunes and Robertson. “Users can still download songs from publicly available websites, and store them without a separate license fee, so long as MP3tunes complies with takedown notices. The main takeaway is that MP3tunes’ fundamental business model has been upheld.”

Pauley did find the defendants liable for “contributory” copyright infringement for songs where notices of alleged infringement were provided. He also said Robertson was liable for having personally transferred songs from unauthorised websites.

An EMI spokesman expressed disappointment with the decision.

“EMI believes that companies like MP3tunes, which knowingly build a business based on stolen music, should not be entitled to any DMCA safe harbor defense, and we’re evaluating our options to seek review of those portions of the decision,” the spokesman said.

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