It’s quite the week for big copyright infringement cases reaching their conclusions. YouTube and Viacom settled the latter’s $1bn lawsuit out of court earlier this week, but MP3tunes versus Capitol Records has gone the distance – and it hasn’t ended well for the now-shuttered music locker service.
The company and its founder Michael Robertson has been found liable for copyright infringement, including “willful blindness” to infringing activity happening on the service. It’s a significant legal point, albeit one that’s been somewhat overtaken in recent years by the launch of licensed cloud-locker services from Google, Amazon and Apple.
Those services and deals are unlikely to feel much impact from the ruling, although it’s certainly a grave blow for Robertson himself, who since shutting MP3tunes has launched several startups focusing more on the digital radio space. Reuters suggests that the damages phase of the case will now run for 2-3 days.
The verdict takes its place alongside previous cases involving the original Napster, Grokster and LimeWire, plus that Viacom / YouTube lawsuit that ultimately didn’t yield a ruling on the limits of ‘safe harbor’ protection under the US DMCA legislation.
Robertson and MP3tunes succeeded in defending some of the infringement-related accusations in their case, including pointing out that a number of the songs cited had been distributed for free on a promotional basis by labels. But the case’s greatest impact may already have happened: persuading those tech giants to strike licensing deals before launching their own lockers.