In a significant legal development, Sony Music Entertainment and five other prominent music companies have jointly filed a lawsuit against the non-profit Internet Archive, alleging copyright infringement related to its online dissemination of vintage music. The lawsuit, which was filed in a Manhattan federal court, accuses the Internet Archive of engaging in “wholesale theft” of copyright-protected music by sharing thousands of old songs and recordings without proper authorization.
**Allegations of Blatant Infringement**
Legal representatives for the music labels assert that the Internet Archive’s actions constitute a “blatant infringement” involving hundreds of thousands of works by some of the most illustrious artists of the Twentieth Century. The lawsuit specifically cites legendary figures such as Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, and Thelonious Monk. A list of 2749 recordings is included in the complaint, with songs like Bing Crosby’s rendition of “White Christmas” mentioned as just a fraction of the copyrighted content that the archive has posted without obtaining permission from the rightful copyright holders.
**Seeking Legal Remedies**
The lawsuit seeks both injunctive relief and substantial damages from the Internet Archive. The music companies are requesting the court to compel the archive to promptly remove all copyrighted material that has been shared without authorization. Moreover, they are pursuing monetary compensation of up to $150,000 for each infringed work, with the aggregate amount for the listed recordings potentially reaching an astounding $372 million.
The companies include a list of 2749 recordings in the lawsuit, including Bing Crosby singing” White Christmas,” that “is but a small sample” of recordings the archive posted without permission, according to the complaint. They are asking the court to order the archive to remove all copyrighted material and pay damages of as much as $150,000 for each infringed work, which for the listed recordings would amount to $372 million.
**Internet Archive’s Mission and Accusations**
The Internet Archive is known for its extensive digital repository, encompassing texts, videos, and music. Among its projects, the Great 78 Project stands out – a platform where digitized copies of antiquated 78 LP format records are made accessible. The archive has proudly shared more than 400,000 recordings, highlighting its commitment to preserving, researching, and discovering 78rpm records.
However, the music labels are vehemently contesting the archive’s altruistic claims, deeming them a “smokescreen” to mask the alleged copyright infringement. According to the labels’ legal representation, the recordings in question are already available through various authorized streaming and downloading services, rendering the argument of potential loss, oblivion, or destruction irrelevant.
**Legal Background and Defendants**
The backdrop of the case includes the Music Modernization Act passed by Congress in 2018, extending copyright protection for pre-1972 music until 2067. Sony Music Entertainment spearheads the lawsuit and is joined by UMG Recordings Inc., Capitol Records LLC, Concord Bicycle Assets LLC, CMGI Recorded Music Assets LLC, and Arista Music.
**Internet Archive’s Response**
Despite the legal proceedings, the Internet Archive has yet to issue a response to the allegations leveled against it by the music labels. It remains to be seen how the organization will address these serious accusations in the court of law. A list of 2749 recordings is included in the complaint, with songs like Bing Crosby’s rendition of “White Christmas” mentioned as just a fraction of the copyrighted content that the archive has posted without obtaining permission from the rightful copyright holders.
The lawsuit brought by major music labels against the Internet Archive marks a pivotal moment in the realm of copyright infringement within the digital age. The conflict between the archive’s mission of preservation and the music companies’ assertion of unauthorized dissemination highlights the complex interplay between intellectual property rights and the advancement of technology. As this legal battle unfolds, it will undoubtedly raise crucial questions about the boundaries of digital archiving and copyright protection, ultimately shaping the landscape for the future of cultural heritage preservation and artistic expression.