Major Record Labels Agree To Pay $45 Million For Copyright Infringement In Canada

from the and-they-got-off-easy dept

We’ve noted the irony of the fact that the largest copyright system supporters are frequently found to infringe whenever possible. One of the most amazing examples of this concerned the major record labels, who for years were directly infringing on the copyrights of various artists, by putting their songs on compilations and mixes without first getting permission as is required by the law. Instead, the labels would put those artists on a “pending list,” but they rarely seemed to get around to taking them off that “pending list” and paying them. After years of trying to get the labels to pay up, a lawsuit was finally filed, where the artists pointed out that the labels could be on the hook for $6 billion. Kind of amusing to see the ridiculously large infringement penalties thrown back at the labels. After some negotiation, it appears that the labels have agreed to settle the case for $45 million and they’re also promising to make sure that artists on the pending list will get paid in a reasonable amount of time. Now, can we finally stop pretending that the major record labels ever have the best interests of the artists in mind?

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Comments on “Major Record Labels Agree To Pay $45 Million For Copyright Infringement In Canada”

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36 Comments
Mike C. (profile) says:

Let me see if I get this right...

1) The major labels end up paying $45 million for over 300,000 cases on infringement. That works out to $150 per incident and yet they want $150,000 per incident here in the USA.

2) The labels get to CONTINUE to perform the acts of infringement as long as they “promise” to pay the artists infringed against in a “timely” fashion.

Yeah… and they wonder why we call them two-faced…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I’ll bet you’re torn. It’s impossible for you to defend both copyright and the labels on this one.

So which way are you going (paid) to go? Defend copyright, and you go against your beloved labels. Defend labels, and you go against your beloved copyright?

No wonder you’re angry, heh, hypocrisy slapped your face and spanked your ass hard.

Ccomp5950 (profile) says:

Re:

No one is saying it justifies piracy, how come you and every other Anonymous Coward on here seems to think this blog is dedicated to justifying piracy? It’s been repeated tirelessly “Piracy is bad, mmkay”.

I’m personally just wanting all the megalawsuits to end. $150,000 per infringement is insane. What is interesting about this is that it is practically stating what the actual “damages” are right here ($150 per infringement), yet if this number should ever be tossed around with the mafIAA on the other side of the court you would have it laughed at.

Not That Chris (profile) says:

Precedent?

I’d seen a comment elsewhere on this and wondered also if, since the labels settled for $150 per infringement, this case could be used as precedent for future cases to set penalties for infringement at the $150 mark, as opposed to the outrageously high one noted in previous, still in process cases? Or would it not matter since this is a settlement (as opposed to a judgement) and it’s really seen more as the artists’ attorneys accepting the $150 and not the RIAA?

herbert says:

so the record labels ‘pirate’ multiple tracks of other peoples music, multiple times, in multiple countries, for multiple years, so as to make money, then only have to pay about $150 per infringement. now someone justify the thousands of dollars they claim (and get awarded!) against someone for sharing for free, not selling, half a dozen songs! the court should have made examples of them in the same way they make examples of file sharers!

Eo Nomine says:

Sorry, folks, but this wasn’t infringement… under Canadian copyright law, the labels had a compulsory license to reproduce the works in question and did not need to obtain permission. The labels *did* owe back royalties for owners they couldn’t locate to pay (and there were allegations that they didn’t try very hard to find them), and settled for almost the entire amount that the collectives were asking for ($50M, not the ridiculously inflated $6B figure).

More detailed (and better informed) coverage is here:

http://www.entertainmentmedialawsignal.com/2011/01/articles/music/settlement-reached-in-canadian-music-industry-pending-lists-lawsuit/
http://www.thewirereport.ca/reports/content/11789-new_record_label_agreement_lays_groundwork_for_mechanical_royalties_payments
http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/movies/article/919136–tentative-agreement-reached-between-labels-songwriters

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re:

Sorry, folks, but this wasn’t infringement… under Canadian copyright law, the labels had a compulsory license to reproduce the works in question and did not need to obtain permission.

Was Geist’s report incorrect? He noted that a change in the law, back in the late 1980s required permission. As a “compromise” the labels set up this pending list which *acts* as a compulsory license, but wasn’t quite the same thing. Separately, if there’s a compulsory license and you don’t pay it, then you’ve infringed on the copyright.

Either way, it looks like copyright infringement.

Anonymous Coward says:

I never understood how the penalty for copying a song could ever cost more than the original cost of the song? if this is a civil court matter, it should be for the cost of the item, not a judgment for punishment. I’ve never seen a song for sale at $150 let alone $150,000. Seems rather idiotic to me.

Just my view, and I honestly don’t care what you think about it.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Let me see if I get this right...

“1) The major labels end up paying $45 million for over 300,000 cases on infringement. That works out to $150 per incident and yet they want $150,000 per incident here in the USA.”

If I understand this correctly. Thats not per infringment, its per item infringed. If the song is used on an album it might have 100,000 copies sold but only be on the list once. So how much the labels are paying per infringement is much less.

Phillip (profile) says:

Re:

If you have a license you never paid for that sounds like copyright infringement to me.
That’s like downloading a few movies and putting them on a list to actually pay for at some point in the future and just never getting around to it and hoping everyone forgets. In the meantime I’m not just watching the movies I’m putting them out there and selling them.

Karl (profile) says:

Re:

I never understood how the penalty for copying a song could ever cost more than the original cost of the song?

In theory, these people are distributing, not just downloading.

So, let’s take the Thomas case. I did a bit of Googling, and it looks like Kazaa had an average limit of about 10 simultaneous connections back then. Even assuming you left your connection going for a long time, it seems unlikely that she would have shared a song with more than 100 people.

So, at maximum, the actual damages would be 100x the cost of the song. Assuming then-standard prices of $1.29 per song on iTunes, that would be $129 per infringement.

That’s much less than the minimum statutory damages, so it’s no surprise that the RIAA went with statutory damages instead. Even so – as far as I know, the latest damage amount was $1.5 million for 24 songs, or $62,500 per song. This is almost 500% of the actual damages – far in excess of what is normally considered unconstitutionally excessive.

Ron Rezendes (profile) says:

Precedent?

This was exactly my first thought! If I were one of the previous/current defendants ordered to pay some outrageous figure, like, oh say $150k per song, I’d be asking for an appeal on the award figure to this new perfectly reasonable (according to the labels themselves since they ARE willing to pay this amount) total of $150 per song. And if I weren’t found guilty of doing my infringement for profit, as the labels did, I’d also argue that this $150 figure be cut in half to $75 per song.

Eugene (profile) says:

Re:

Aside from the tired ad hominem, I’d like to point out that on average, pirates are hobbyists who don’t profit off sharing music, whereas what the record labels were doing here is ACTUALLY MAKING MONEY. They engaged in infringement, and then endeavored to make a profit off of that infringement, something orders of magnitude worse than what the typical pirate does. Yet they managed to get off only paying out $150 per artist.

The eejit (profile) says:

Re:

Yuo are what the fuck is wrong with discourse in America. Instead of actually discussing things and opening your tiny little mind to the possibility that you may just be wrong, you ad hominem and throw critical thinking out the window.

You are no better than Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Keith Olbermann or Rush Limbaugh. Honest to god, you make me so sick I may just end up vomiting the bile these half-brained fuckwits spew each and every day.

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

Ummm read carefully

Thanks for the more detailed coverage. It was worth reading and it doesn’t appear that there were 300,000+ cases of infringement, but to claim there was no infringement means that you didn’t read the article.

Let me assist you, as it seems the infringement was settled right out of the case.

“The proposed agreement settles all alleged copyright infringement liability related to that small minority of unlicenced works that have accumulated over the years.”

Assuming that the small amount was willfully infringed, in the US that would mean that the labels owe $30,000 – $150,000 per case of infringement. I would just like to know why all the ACs are not rallying for the cause of the artists. They seem to be keen on people paying up when they know they are breaking the law. It’s about making sure the artists get paid, no?

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