The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is suing online music source MP3.com for alleged copyright violations springing from the company's recently launched instant listening service, called My.MP3.com.
My.MP3.com, which was rolled out earlier this month, allows users to download digital copies of CDs they already own or those that they have bought from the company's retail partners. MP3.com claims it uses secure technology to confirm that consumers wanting to digitally download a CD already have a physical copy.
The RIAA accuses MP3.com of compiling an unauthorised digital music catalogue of up to 45,000 CDs, claiming that many of the copyrighted works are the property of its members.
In a letter to MP3.com chief executive Michael Robertson, Hilary Rosen, chief executive of the RIAA said: "It is not legal to compile a vast database of our members' sound recordings with no permission and no licence."
Robertson said MP3.com plans to "vigorously" defend the suit.
"On behalf of consumers, we are disappointed that the positive benefits and security features of our newly upgraded My.MP3.com service are misunderstood by some people in the music industry," he said. "We believe My.MP3.com will stimulate CD sales and be a financial boon for the music industry overall."
MP3.com and competitors such as Myplay.com allow users to store their record collections online, but the RIAA claims that creating a catalogue of digital music without an explicit licence breaks copyright laws.
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