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MP3.com Halts Access to Copyrighted Songs

Courts: Move comes amid talks to settle a suit brought by record industry. Web site had offered music for free.

May 11, 2000|CHUCK PHILIPS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MP3.com cut off access Wednesday to all songs owned by major record labels on its controversial "My.MP3.com" service as negotiations to settle a copyright infringement lawsuit with the music industry continue.

The move follows a federal judge's ruling April 28 that the San Diego-based Web site had infringed upon the record labels' copyrights by transmitting, for free, hundreds of thousands of songs to computer users who subscribe to My.MP3.com.

"We regret the need to take this step, which inconveniences more than 500,000 My.MP3.com account holders," Robin D. Richards, MP3.com president and chief operating officer, said in a statement. "While we disagree with the court's decision, we also want to demonstrate our good faith and strong desire to achieve an expeditious business resolution."

MP3.com was sued in January by Seagram Co., Sony Corp., Time Warner Inc., EMI Group and Bertelsmann for copyright infringement. The record labels said MP3.com violated copyright laws by creating a database of 80,000 unauthorized albums, which allows users to store music from their personal CD collections and then access it via any computer connected to the Internet.

The lawsuit seeks billions of dollars in damages and an order stopping MP3.com from transmitting copyrighted music over the Internet. The judge has yet to determine MP3.com's financial liability. The case is scheduled to go to trial Aug. 28 on the issue, unless the defendant's appeal is accepted by the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.

Representatives for MP3.com and the record labels have been struggling for weeks to come to terms on payments for past damages and future licensing fees that might allow the service to be resurrected.

"We continue to work tirelessly with all the major labels to arrive at a settlement of their copyright infringement claims and to reach an agreement to license their musical works," Richards said.

"We expect to restore user access to the 'Big Five' major label groups if and when a settlement is reached and licenses are executed."

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