Why MP3.com Never Appealed: The Legal System Made It Impossible
from the not-how-it's-supposed-to-work dept
It’s been nearly six years since a judge ruled that Michael Robertson’s MP3.com violated copyrights with its My.Mp3.com service. For those of you too busy focused on your bubble-era dot coms at the time, the service had digitized thousands of CDs for people to listen to. However, to keep it all legal (they thought), you had to own a copy of the actual CD to get access to the digitized streaming version. Putting that CD into your CD-ROM drive would “register” it to your account, and then you could listen to the CD streaming from MP3.com. Also, if you bought a CD through their website, you could immediately listen to the streaming version while you waited for the physical CD to be delivered. There were ways that crafty folks could get around the limitations — but for the most part, this was a really useful service that actually (gasp!) made buying CDs a lot more valuable without the recording industry having to do a damn thing. So, of course, the RIAA had to destroy it with a lawsuit. In Tim Lee’s recent paper, he wondered why MP3.com never appealed the original ruling, as you could make a good case that the judge misunderstood what was really going on. Michael Robertson has now emailed Lee to explain the legal quirks for the lack of an appeal. Apparently, in order to appeal, the company would have needed to put up a bond for the potential damages. Since the RIAA could push for statutory damages, MP3.com was looking at getting someone to put up a bond for potentially tens of billions of dollars — making it effectively impossible. Randomly… in looking over our own historical links on MP3.com, I came across a related story that I had totally forgotten about. After MP3.com lost the case, the company apparently sued its own law firm for having given them the assurance that the program was legal. MP3.com apparently felt this was “legal malpractice.” Does anyone know what ever happened to that case?