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Record Labels Slap MTVi With Copyright Suit

A group of the music industry’s biggest labels has slapped a copyright infringement suit against MTVi, the online arm of Viacom’s music entertainment network.

The lawsuit – filed by a group that includes Sony Music Entertainment, EMI Group and BMG Entertainment – is alleging that two sites within the MTVi stable are “knowingly and openly operating outside of the bounds of copyright laws” by offering free music on the Internet.

At stake is the ongoing issue of monitoring the use of copyrighted music on the Internet. The record labels are arguing that (in this case, for example) because the user has a degree of control, it is an infringement of copyright. However MTVi is seeking a separate legal ruling that this is not covered by existing law.

MTVi has dismissed the suit as “unnecessary,” saying a clarification of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998 will “resolve the issue adequately.”

Interestingly, MTVi has an agreement in place with the labels to roll out a paid download service which will sell more than 10,000 digital music files from online radio stations – RadioMTV.com and VH1AtWork.com.

The lawsuit specifically targets MTVi’s Radio SonicNet service which, according to the lawsuit, offers Internet users the ability to program their own Web radio stations in whatever genre or mix of genres they choose. This allows users to “play” sound recordings by artists, without compensating the record labels.

The suit said songs from pop stars like Mariah Carey, Toni Braxton and Tina Turner were posted by MTVi. It is seeking damages of up to $150,000 for each infringement of copyright.

In a statement, MTVi said: “We are confident that our MTVi service is in full compliance of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998 and that we have not infringed any copyright interests.”

“However, we recognize that there is a need for clarification as to the degree of consumer influence permitted under the DMCA’s compulsory license and that is why last week (we) asked the federal court in California for clarity as to which services would be subject to a compulsory license under the DMCA,” MTVi added.

The lawsuit against MTVi is one of many filed by the record labels against Free ‘Net music services. Similar legal action was also filed against Xact Records and MusicMatch.

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