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Universal Music Sues MySpace.com


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Universal Music Sues MySpace.com

By ALEX VEIGA, AP Business Writer


LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Universal Music Group on Friday sued MySpace.com, claiming the online social-networking hub illegally encourages its users to share music and music videos on the site without permission.

The recording company is seeking unspecified damages, including up to $150,000 for each unauthorized music video or song posted on the Web site.

The lawsuit is the latest legal salvo in a wider conflict between established media against Internet companies whose technology is challenging the traditional ways music, video and other content are distributed and consumed.

In its complaint, filed in U.S. District Court, Universal Music contends MySpace, a unit of News Corp., attempts to shield itself from liability by requiring users agree to grant the Web site a license to publish the content they upload to the site.

Users, however, have no such authority over works they don't own.

The Web site also "encourages, facilitates and participates in the unauthorized reproduction, adaptation, distribution and public performance," according to the suit.

Universal contends that much of the media posted by users of MySpace is not user-generated at all, but actually music and videos stolen from copyright owners.

"MySpace is a willing partner in that theft," the lawsuit claims.

MySpace issued a statement saying it is in full compliance with copyright laws and is confident it will prevail in court.

"We have been keeping UMG closely apprised of our industry-leading efforts to protect creators' rights, and it's unfortunate they decided to file this unnecessary and meritless litigation," the statement read. "We provide users with tools to share their own work - we do not induce, encourage, or condone copyright violation in any way."

In the complaint, Universal singles out features on the Web site that enable users to save copies of videos to their profile pages or share them with others on the site. Universal Music also claims the MySpace Video and MySpace Music services also enable users to access copyright material without permission.

Universal Music, a unit of Paris-based Vivendi SA and the world's largest recording company, is home to recording artists such as U2, The Killers and Kanye West.

"Our music and videos play a key role in building the communities that have created hundreds of millions of dollars of value for the owners of MySpace," the company said in a statement. "Our goal is not to inhibit the creation of these communities, but to ensure that our rights and those of our artists are recognized."

Earlier Friday, MySpace said it was testing technology aimed at enabling content owners to flag videos on the site that they find contain unauthorized copyrighted material. The flagged content is then removed by MySpace. The company expects to roll out the feature in a few weeks.

Currently, MySpace takes down content from its users' pages when it receives a notice from a copyright holder.

Last month, MySpace began using "audio fingerprinting" technology to block users from uploading copyrighted music to the site. That technology works by checking audio files against a music database from Gracenote Inc.

Those steps, however, failed to sway Universal Music. Efforts between the two companies to forge a licensing deal failed this week.

In a speech in September, Universal Music CEO Doug Morris accused MySpace of violating copyright laws. The executive also charged video-sharing site YouTube.com of doing the same. The record company and YouTube Inc. have since reached a licensing deal.

Last month, Universal Music filed separate copyright infringement lawsuits against online video-sharing sites run by Grouper Networks Inc. and Bolt Inc.

? 2006 The Associated Press

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