The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York also
rejected an appeal by MP3tunes founder Michael Robertson, and
reinstated much of a jury 2014's verdict awarding the music
companies $48 million that a trial judge later reduced.
The ruling marked the latest turn in protracted court battles
between the music industry and online content providers. They
followed prior copyright litigation that led to the shutdown of
another company Robertson founded, MP3.com.
Founded in 2005, San Diego-based MP3tunes came to be known for
its so-called cloud music service that allowed users to store
music in online lockers.
In a lawsuit filed in 2007, EMI Group Ltd contended the MP3tunes
website and a related one called Sideload.com enabled the
infringement of copyrights for sound recordings, musical
compositions and cover art.
EMI was split up after the lawsuit's filing, with Vivendi SA's
Universal Music Group buying its recording music business and a
consortium led by Sony Corp acquiring its publishing arm.
A federal jury in Manhattan in 2014 awarded the EMI companies
nearly $48.1 million, a sum U.S. District Judge William Pauley
in Manhattan later reduced, resulting in a $12.2 million
judgment against Robertson.
On appeal, the music companies argued Pauley wrongly concluded
pretrial that MP3tunes was eligible for safe harbor protection
under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by implementing a
policy for terminating repeat infringers.
In Tuesday's ruling, a three-judge appellate panel rejected
Pauley's narrow definition of "repeat infringer" as only
covering users who upload infringing content, rather than ones
who downloaded songs for personal entertainment.
"In the context of this case, all it takes to be a 'repeat
infringer' is to repeatedly upload or download copyrighted
material for personal use," U.S. Circuit Judge Raymond Lohier
The court also reinstated part of the verdict Pauley had thrown
out, though left alone his decision to reduce $7.5 million in
punitive damages to $750,000.
"We are gratified the court reinstated the jury’s verdict
finding the defendants were willfully blind to the rampant
infringement on their website," said Andrew Bart, a lawyer for
the recording labels.
The court also rejected Robertson's own appeal. Ira Sacks, his
lawyer, said he may further appeal.
The case is EMI Christian Music Group, Inc et al. v. MP3tunes,
LLC et al, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 14‐4369.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Tom Brown)
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