Universal Music Sues MySpace

Universal Music Group has filed a copyright infrigement lawsuit against popular social networking Web site MySpace, alleging the site illegally enables users to upload and share music videos from Universal artists.

Universal Music Group is the world’s largest record label, with a roster of artists including U2, Jay-Z, Gwen Stefani, The Killers, and many more. The move comes justas MySpace announced it is testing new technology to enable copyright holders to flag infringing video on MySpace and get it taken down promptly.

In a statement, Universal described its motives for the lawsuit: “Our music and videos play a key role in building the communities that have created hundreds of millions of dollars of value for the owners of MySpace. Our goal is not to inhibit the creation of these communities, but to ensure that our rights and those of our artists are recognized.”

For its part, MySpace claims the suit is without merit, and that while it does provide tools to enable users to share video, they do not encourage, condone, or induce users to violate copyright.

The lawsuit can be seem as Universal’s latest move to get a “piece of the action” in the digital content arena, which music publishers and other copyright holders largely feel has been built on the backs of content they own, but for which they have not been compensates. Last week Universal struck what might turn out to be a landmark deal with Microsoft to receive a royalty for every Zune music player sold, regardless of whether the player is used with any Universal content.

Only a few months ago, Universal was seen as likely to sue both MySpace and YouTube for copyright infringement, with Universal CEO Doug Morris characterizing the businesses as willing copyright infringers who “owe us tens of millions of dollars” in September. Since then YouTube has been acquired by Internet titan Google; Universal may be working on a deal with Google behind the scenes, or simply biding its time before initiating legal action.

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