MP3.com under fire from music biz

New recording service violates recording studio's copyrights, says new lawsuit

Hollywood seemingly has made a New Year's resolution: To aggressively sue any perceived threat to their content.

On Friday, following the path of two Digital Video Disc lawsuits, the Recording Industry Association of America filed a copyright infringement case against digital music portal MP3.com.

The suit calls for a halt to MP3.com's newly launched Instant Listening and Beam-it services that allow the owner of a CD to play music from a library of selections that MP3.com has already digitized on its site.

That is illegal, said the RIAA in a statement. MP3.com constructed that database without making the slightest attempt to obtain permission from the copyright owners to do so.

Bob Kohn, an expert on music copyright law and the chairman of MP3.com-rival Emusic.com, agreed with the RIAA assessment. "This is a textbook case of copyright infringement," he said, adding that it is very similar to tape-copying services that have been determined to be illegal.

If the suit is successful, MP3.com could be in dire straits. Each infringement of a copyright suit can be fined up to $10,000 (£6,200). With two copyrights covering each track of music, MP3.com's approximately 40,000 tracks could lead to a hefty, but unlikely, bill of $8bn.

MP3.com was not able to comment before press time. A statement was scheduled to be released late Friday.

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