updated 05:00 pm EDT, Wed October 4, 2006
The Knack sues Apple
The Knack -- the rock band that created "My Sharona" -- is suing Apple and several other online music distributors including Amazon and Yahoo for copyright infringement. The band claims those sites distributed copies of Run DMC's 1986 hit song "It's Tricky," which allegedly contains an unauthorized sample of The Knack's "My Sharona." While the statute of limitations for copyright infringement is set at three years, band front man Doug Fieger and lead guitarist Berton Averre claim that they had never heard of Run DMC's song -- which is one of the most famous rap songs of all time -- until August of 2005, according to eWeek.com. Amazon, Apple, and Yahoo are targeted in the lawsuit for distributing "It's Tricky" via their websites, along with other online music retailers such as Napster and RealNetworks. Band members are targeting $150,000 for each infringement of their work. Brick-and-mortar retailers such as Wal-Mart, however, were not named in the complaint.
"This is a good example of how copyright law is outdated for the internet," said Jason Schultz, a staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Schultz believes offline retailers were likely not targeted because they don't make copies of infringing work, while online distributors make a new copy each time a song or album is sold. "But distribution has never been addressed clearly online. Apple and Amazon and Yahoo had no idea anything was wrong -- if anything was wrong -- with what they were selling."
Schultz sees no clear reason for The Knack members to wait 20 years before filing a lawsuit, but suspects that an increase in potentially vulnerable companies coupled with the fact that those companies are operating in an area of copyright law not yet clearly defined may have been a factor. Schultz said The Knack's lawsuit won't likely prove successful, but said companies like Apple and Yahoo will find themselves in a bind if the suit is judged to have merit.
"There are no protections for Apple or any of these companies," Schultz added.