MP3tunes case could kill ‘celestial jukebox’

Major labels took a dent in their case against MP3tunes founder, Michael Robertson, with New York District Judge William H. Pauley III ordering the label’s copyright infringement suit against Michael Robertson dismissed.

The judge also elected that the label case against MP3tunes and its personal music lockers should proceed in his New York court.

What’s really important about this case – crucial, really – is that it will determine levels of digital fair use, and, hopefully, define a liberal stance in which consumers can protect themselves against format change by legally hosting music in a format which can be re-rendered for different technologies.

That flies in the face of what label bosses seem to want – they like the idea of building walls between different technologies in order to coerce music fans into purchasing the same thing twice. They hate the idea of a celestial jukebox because it affects their control of music distribution and production..

Robertson observes the case will determine if it is permissible for consumers to store their music in online commercial services for everywhere access, directly analogous to the way they currently store documents, photos and other personal data in cloud services, such as those offered by Google, Apple and others.

The history of this begins in November 2007 when fourteen record labels and publishers affiliated with EMI filed suit against MP3tunes and Michael Robertson alleging copyright infringement. The complaint focused on MP3tunes’ internet locker service where individual music libraries can be stored and accessed.

“Suing CEOs personally is a nasty tactic media companies are engaging in to intimidate individuals, forcing them to either enter into a settlement or face the possibility of losing their homes, cars, and all their personal belongings,” said MP3tunes CEO, Michael Robertson.

“I chose to fight instead of run, because I believe consumers should be able to listen to their music everywhere. We look forward to explaining to the court what we do, and how we do it in a responsible and legal manner.”

MP3tunes has 150,000 customers with personal music accounts known as lockers. All music stored in these password protected accounts is available on their computers, game consoles, DVRs, internet radios and mobile phones for listening. Free and premium accounts are available.

What makes this infuriating is that there are services which do exist and which do allow for similar facilities – BT offers The Vault and AOL its Xdrive – but the majors chose instead to litigate an independent service.

Robertson accuses the litigants, who are led by EMI that they, “intentionally targeted my small company thinking they would have a tactical legal advantage.

“Much is at stake because if we lose this case it will shut down every online storage company and cripple consumers’ rights.”

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