updated 08:55 pm EDT, Mon August 22, 2011
Ruling could leave door open for locker services
MP3tunes has lost a copyright infringement lawsuit originally filed by EMI, however the judge tossed many of the record label's DMCA claims that were viewed as a threat to other music locker services. Judge William Pauley agreed that MP3tunes violated EMI copyrights by failing to remove pirated tracks from its customers' music lockers after pulling the same listings from Sideload.com, a music search engine that operated alongside the locker service.
The ruling also found MP3tunes founder Michael Robertson personally accountable for selecting copyrighted tracks from infringing websites and migrating the content into his own music locker.
EMI and several other record labels initially sued MP3tunes for operating a music storage service without first obtaining licenses. The plaintiffs claimed the service ran counter to DMCA protections by directly profiting from copyright infringement without taking proper steps to protect content.
Judge Pauley opined that users are primarily responsible for the content that ends up in their music lockers. The ruling further suggests the DMCA does not require such services to uncover and quash infringing activity without first receiving specific complaints from content owners, while duplication technology is described as a "standard data compression algorithm" rather than a system of keeping an infringing "master copy" to feed to users.
Although MP3tunes failed to walk away from the proceedings unscathed, the ruling has been viewed as a legal reinforcement to other cloud-based music services. Apple's iTunes Match and iCloud services, as well as Google Music Beta and Amazon Cloud Player, were just rumors when the lawsuit was initially filed. Many analysts anticipated fierce battles between cloud-based service providers and record labels, however the emerging players have placed restrictions on content that can be loaded into the cloud.
It is unclear if MP3tunes will appeal the decision and extend the legal dispute. [via Ars Technica]