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Universal Music Sues MySpace Over Copyright Infringement

The suit accuses MySpace of breaking the law by accepting video from users filled with illegal content owned by others, and then reformatting the video so it can be displayed on the site.

Antone Gonsalves

November 17, 2006

3 Min Read

Universal Music Group on Friday sued News Corp.'s MySpace, claiming MySpace is infringing on Universal's copyrights by allowing users to post the record company's music and videos.

The suit is the first filed by a major entertainment company against the popular social network, which has been putting measures in place to try to appease companies that have had unauthorized content posted on the site. Universal, which is owned by French media conglomerate Vivendi, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court Central District of California.

MySpace issued a statement saying that it had been keeping Universal "closely apprised" of its copyright-protection efforts, and "it's unfortunate they decided to file this unnecessary and meritless litigation."

"We provide users with tools to share their own work -- we do not induce, encourage, or condone copyright violation in any way," the company said. "We are in full compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and have no doubt we will prevail in court."

The suit accuses MySpace of accepting video from users filled with illegal content owned by others, and then reformatting the video so it can be displayed on the site. In posting the content, MySpace is participating in the infringement.

"MySpace and its parent company, defendant News Corp., have consciously built and maintained MySpace's position as one of the most prominent and valuable Websites on the Internet through rampant copyright infringement," the lawsuit said.

Universal later issued a statement saying its music and video had created hundreds of millions of dollars of value for MySpace. "Businesses that seek to trade off on our content, and the hard work of our artists and songwriters, shouldn't be free to do so without permission and without fairly compensating the content creators," the company said.

The lawsuit seeks the maximum statutory damages of $150,000 for each infringed copyrighted work, and asks the court to order MySpace to remove all Universal-owned material.

The suit was filed the same day MySpace said that it was testing a tool that would enable copyright holders to find infringing video and tag it. The site would then remove the content. The tool is being tested with News Corp.'s Fox Broadcasting Co. and Major League Baseball, but there was no timetable for its release.

Among entertainment companies, Universal has been the loudest saber-rattler opposing use of unauthorized content on sites like MySpace and video-sharing site YouTube, which was recently acquired by Google.

MySpace has a "notice-and-takedown" policy in which it agrees to remove content at the request of copyright holders. Greg Gabriel, copyright litigation lawyer for the Los Angeles law firm Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump and Aldisert, said MySpace's policy appeared to be in compliance with the federal DMCA, which defines the rules for copyright protection.

MySpace, experts say, could be protected under the act because its core business does not hinge on letting people share copyrighted material. Instead, its a social network open to anyone who wants to build personal networks of family and friends.

MySpace had more than 49 million unique vistors in October, an increase of 140 percent over the same month a year ago, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

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