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Thursday, 23 August, 2001, 10:49 GMT 11:49 UK
More legal trouble for is being bought by Vivendi Universal
More than 50 songwriters and music publishers are suing free music download site, accusing it of copyright infringement.

The group, which includes the estate of Roy Orbison, the Bellamy Brothers and artist Paul Overstreet, has filed a lawsuit demanding damages for unpaid royalties as well as a permanent injunction against the site.

Roy Orbison
Roy Orbison's estate is among those involved
They also accuse the site of being responsible for the distribution of songs on the MP3 format outside the site.

But the group has been accused of targeting because its new owners have more money than independent download services. is currently in the process of being bought by major entertainment company Vivendi Universal, who will transform it from industry villain to a legitimate service.

The site was recently forced to pay an estimated $160m (111m) to other record companies and publishers in an earlier copyright suit.

They're going after because Universal has deep pockets

Ric Dube
Analyst, Webnoize
The latest suit sees the songwriters and publishers seeking damages for "viral infringements" of about 1,000 songs.

"Viral infringements" mean allowing copyright-free electronic versions of songs to be downloaded and then passed onto other internet users quickly and easily.

The lawsuit says is responsible for all songs that originally came from the site and were then passed on, even if a user did not download it from the site themselves.

U2's songs will be available on Pressplay
The songwriters' and publishers' lawsuit is frivolous, according to Ric Dube, analyst with research firm Webnoize.

"These plaintiffs are saying that every time people used other services like Gnutella to download songs, contributed to that," he said.

"They're going after because Universal has deep pockets."

In May, songwriters Randy Newman, Tom Waits and Ann and Nancy Wilson of the rock band Heart also decided to sue for $40.5m (27m).

Although they share the same name, did not develop and does not own the MP3 format.


Vivendi is to use the technology behind for its new subscription download service Pressplay, which is due to launch later this year.

As well as offering songs from Vivendi's catalogue, which includes U2, Abba and Eric Clapton, it will include artists on Sony's roster.

It will rival a similar service, MusicNet, which is being set up by the other major record labels, owned by AOL Time Warner, EMI and Bertelsmann.

The labels hope their legitimate services will finally end the popularity of free online download services on sites like Napster, which has also been the focus of determined legal challenges.

See also:

29 May 01 | New Media
Record giant to share MP3 damages
20 May 01 | New Media bought for $372m
05 Sep 01 | New Media sued for $40m
22 Aug 01 | New Media
Napster set to return
17 Aug 01 | Reviews
Sounding out web music
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