Yahoo, Microsoft, and Real Networks Sued Over Copyright

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MCS Music America, a copyright administration outfit that’s a subsidiary of the British firm Conexion Media Group PLC has filed suit in a Tennessee court against Microsoft, Real Networks, and Yahoo, claiming the companies’ streaming services provide access to tracks that the companies do not have permission to distribute. The suit seeks $150,000 for each act of infringement—meaning every time the songs are downloaded or streamed—and to have the tracks immediately removed from the online music services. The suit covers tens of thousands of tracks from a dozen or more music labels and artists like Aretha Franklin, Emmylou Harris, and even Grand Funk Railroad.

According to the complaint, Real Networks, Microsoft’s zune service, and Yahoo users to download complete songs to their hard drives during trial periods or while they’re paid up on a subscription, or to listen to the tracks in full via on-demand streams. According to MCS Music, the companies would need both a license to the sound recordings being distributed and a license to the underlying musical composition.

Neither Microsoft, Yahoo, nor Real Networks have commented on the suit.

For the last few years, online music services have been in a rush to license tracks to expand their catalogs and offer the widest selection to music users, and doing so means entering into contracts and licenses with a large number of copyright administration outfits, as well as individual record labels and publishers. It is conceivable that Microsoft, Yahoo, and Real Networks thought they were negotiating for the appropriate rights to distribute the tracks in question, and the exact nature of the licenses from MSC Music slipped under the radar…or it may be that MCS is unhappy with its arrangement with the companies and is seeking to do an end-run around its deal—it is rather odd that MSC Music is seeking to have the tracks removed from the services, rather than work out payment arrangements going forward.

More details should emerge as the case moves toward trial or settlement.

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