Songwriters sue MP3.com for $40.5 million

The Associated Press
Wednesday May 09, 2001

LOS ANGELES — Songwriters Randy Newman, Tom Waits and members of the rock band Heart have filed a $40.5 million copyright infringement lawsuit against Internet music site MP3.com. 

The songwriters, who all own the copyrights to their music, say the San Diego-based Web site illegally gives listeners access to their songs over the My.Mp3.com service. The suit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. 

The suit claims that songs such as Newman’s hits, “I Love LA” and “Short People” as well as “Downtown Train” by Waits and “Barracuda” by Heart, were illegally copied onto MP3.com’s computers and made available for listening to anyone who “proved” ownership of the artist’s music by briefly inserting a compact disc into a computer. 

The songwriters claim about 270 songs are illegally available through the My.Mp3.com service and are asking for the maximum penalty of $150,000 for each song. 

“Unless the major artists band together to do this, everyone else is taken advantage of as well,” plaintiff’s attorney Henry Gradstein said Tuesday. 

A spokesman for MP3.com said Tuesday the company has not been served with the latest suit and could not comment. 

The suit is similar to one brought last year by the major record labels, which alleged infringement of the recorded performances rather than the copyrights of the songs themselves.  

Most of the labels reached settlements with MP3.com and agreed to license their music. 

Last November, MP3.com agreed to pay $53.4 million to Universal Music Group, which ended the company’s disputes with major music makers. Earlier, a federal court judge in New York ruled that MP3.com had intentionally violated the copyrights of the music companies. 

The National Music Publishers’ Association Inc. filed a separate suit and last October, MP3.com agreed to pay them $34 million to make more than 1 million musical compositions available on the site.