Songwriters, Publishers File Suit Against Aimster

By | July 4, 2001 at 12:00 AM

Music publishers and songwriters said Tuesday they had joined the growing list of media companies suing file-sharing company Aimster for copyright infringement, saying that the service is trying to fill the void left by Napster.

The lawsuit was filed last week in a Manhattan Federal Court by a group including legendary songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who penned “Jailhouse Rock” and music publishers Criterion Music, Famous Music, and The Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization.

“We are extremely disappointed that before the ink was even dry on Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ opinion concluding that Napster was engaging in massive copyright infringement, another Internet music service would seek with impunity to supplant Napster and expect to get away with it,” said Edward Murphy, president and chief executive officer of National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA).

Music publishers are currently involved in negotiations with Napster, which has seen usage grind nearly to a halt due to court-injunction ordering it to stop trade in copyrighted songs.

AIMSTER CRIES COLLUSION

Johnny Deep, Aimster’s chief executive officer, on Tuesday said the lawsuit by publishers amounted to collusion with the recording industry, which has already sued the service.

The music publishers own copyrights to underlying compositions of songs while record labels own the copyrights for sound recordings.

Over 30 companies have filed copyright-infringement lawsuits against Albany-based Aimster. Suits have been filed in federal court, with one being lodged on behalf of major record labels such as Vivendi Universal’s Universal Music, Sony Music, EMI Group Plc and Bertelsmann AG’s BMG.

A second suit against Aimster was filed on behalf of several divisions of AOL Time Warner including Warner Music, New Line Cinema and Atlantic Records.

Aimster had filed a preemptive suit against the recording industry in May, asking a court in Albany for a declaratory judgment stating it was not infringing on copyrights.

Aimster has hired David Boies, a top lawyer who has represented Napster, and is seeking to have all the cases consolidated in Albany.

On June 22, a federal judge in Albany, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Kahn, denied a motion by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and 17 companies to dismiss the suit filed against them in Albany by Aimster. Kahn also refused to transfer the suit to Manhattan, where 36 companies filed two subsequent copyright-infringement suits against Aimster.

On Tuesday, Deep said the lawsuit filed in Manhattan by the publishers appeared to be in contempt of Kahn’s order.

“This is collusion within the recording industry. The defendants in our suit have been enjoined from filing motions in other forums,” he said. “This is just a copycat case represented by the same attorneys.”

Aimster has contended any attempt to monitor its members would itself be a violation of federal copyright law and users’ privacy since it has encrypted transmissions on its network.

He has said Aimster, a Napster-like program, is better insulated from lawsuits than a fully open file-swapping services like Napster because users have more control over files as they share only with people designated on instant messaging “buddy lists.”

But lawyers for the recording industry have said this was false and that Aimster is essentially providing the same service as Napster.

“This lawsuit seeks to preserve the substance of our victory in Napster,” said Murphy of the NMPA.

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