MP3.com accused Universal Music Group of anti-competitive behaviour yesterday as the online music provider continued its court battle to defend claims of copyright infringement.
Edgar Bronfman, chief executive at Seagram, Universal's parent company, took to the stand on day three of the MP3.com versus Universal court case that is being heard in New York. He claimed that MP3.com purposely violated copyright law to create an online catalogue of some 80,000 CDs.
But Bronfman's testimony was cut short because Judge Jed Rakoff felt his opinions were not relevant to the case in deciding whether MP3.com wilfully infringed on the copyrights of record companies.
The judge also ruled as irrelevant MP3.com's claims that Universal was unwilling to settle out of court because of its own online strategy. MP3.com lawyers argued that Farmclub.com, a website created by Universal chiefs, is a direct rival to MP3.com implying that Universal had competitive motives to pursue a lawsuit. Both sites allow visitors to download music by bands which have yet to sign a recording contract.
At issue is MP3.com's My.MP3.com facility which enables users to listen to music from previously purchased CDs which are kept in an online 'locker'. The service, which has been suspended since May, does not require users to copy their own CDs to the locker, but instead offers access to an existing database. Users are required to verify that they own a copy of the music by placing the CD in their CDRom drives.
The facility was launched at the beginning of the year and MP3.com was soon issued with lawsuits from Sony, Warner Music Group, BMG, EMI and Universal. In April, a judge ruled that MP3.com was liable for copyright infringement and the service was suspended. The company then settled out of court with all of the plaintiffs apart from Universal.
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