You may recall EMI / Capitol Records ongoing lawsuit against MP3Tunes and its founder/CEO Michael Robertson. The initial ruling in that case went almost entirely
against EMI, with one small exception that we'll get to soon. EMI asked the court to reconsider the ruling, claiming that it had made some mistakes, but the court slammed EMI
for some questionable behavior, including taking a number of quotes completely out of context as an attempt to mislead the court. The latest on that case is that following the appeals court ruling
in the YouTube/Viacom case that sent that case back to the lower court, EMI pretended that the ruling changed everything and required a new ruling. The two sides are currently filing motions back and forth over that, with MP3Tunes pointing out that nothing in that ruling actually changes anything, and EMI claiming otherwise. Given the narrow aspects of the Viacom ruling, I think that EMI is still unlikely to get very far. Still, it's fairly amazing how much time, money and effort it has spent on this case, even as the company itself got into serious trouble and was sold off in, effectively, a fire sale.
Which then brings us to the other aspect of the case. The one area in which EMI "prevailed" in the original case was in the part they filed against Robertson personally
. The court had ruled on summary judgment that Robertson was liable directly for 47 songs that he had personally "sideloaded" into MP3Tunes. However, even that part of the case was strange. Initially, EMI had claimed that it had never, ever, ever authorized any MP3s to be given out for free for promotional purposes. In response, Robertson crowdsourced
examples of over 1,400 cases where EMI was clearly giving away MP3s for free. However, the court still ruled that he was liable.
In the latest filing about that, Robertson hits back on a number of points
, starting with the fact that the court ruled on summary judgment on the issue, even though EMI and Robertson had already agreed that the summary judgment part of the dispute wouldn't cover Robertson's personal liability. Because of that, he didn't present the full argument for why he shouldn't be liable, and thus he's asking that the court allow that part to go to trial in order to show that the evidence of his own infringement is lacking.
In order to support that, Robertson's filing demonstrates a few important things. First, it shows a bunch of evidence that EMI purposefully and deliberately marketed its music to various sites asking them to give away MP3s and even to share the music widely. Second, it shows that, despite being asked for this info during discovery, EMI did not provide it. Instead, Robertson got it later from other sources. This is a big no-no, and EMI may run into some issues for failing to hand over the required information during discovery. Still, what the filing shows is that EMI regularly and frequently hired companies to distribute MP3s for free, and encouraged them to be put up on various websites and shared widely. And this includes some of the songs that Robertson is accused of infringing and some of the sites he's accused of downloading the songs from.
Reading pages five through nine in the motion he filed demonstrates this over and over again, including in an email from an EMI Publishing employee, who not only is planning a promotional download but says part of the plan is to "encourage as many third party online zines, podcasts, blogs, major web portals to host the MP3 for free download on their site." Here's just a snippet of some of the examples Robertson turned up of EMI using free MP3s in marketing (which they did not properly disclose):
For example, Definitive Jux (an EMI label) entered into an agreement with viral
marketing firm, Better Propaganda, which granted Better Propaganda the right "to use, copy,
distribute, display and perform [a specified song] on and through the Internet and the World
Wide Web..."). This song remains available on the Better
Propaganda site. Plaintiffs did not produce this document....
Similarly, Astralwerks (another EMI label) engaged Toolshed, Inc. ("Toolshed"), a Viral
marketing firm, to distribute sound recordings pursuant to a marketing program by which
Toolshed would virally distribute free MP3 downloads through various blogs and Toolshed's
own website. Importantly, Toolshed's webpage for downloads notes clearly that "All songs
. . . are pre-licensed for use on your site. Simply browse, find music you like, and copy it to
your page." .... Toolshed has done projects for
numerous labels, including EMI labels Astralwerks, Capitol Records, Caroline Records and
Definitive Jux Toolshed distributed free MP3s for numerous of Plaintiffs' artists --
including Air, Willy Mason, Bat for Lashes, Pacificl, Carbon/Silicon, The Perceptionists, and
Amos Lee -- including one of the same artists that Robertson is accused of wrongfully
did not produce documents they exchanged with Toolshed relating to those projects.
One project by Toolshed is especially important: as emails (dated March 5, 2007)
provided to Robertson from Toolshed indicate, Astralwerks paid Toolshed to get websites to give
away MP3s for the new release of the album "Pocket Symphony" by Air, to be released on
March 6, 2007.... Toolshed achieved coverage, including free downloads
of a track and/or video placement, with numerous sites, including 3HiVe, Donewaiting, Kevchino, Music for Kids Who Can't Read Good, Muzzle of Bees, PopMatters, Sixeyes, Stereogum, Antville, and Kingbline..., some of the same sites and the same artist from which Robertson is accused of wrongfully downloading Plaintiffs' songs and which Plaintiffs have alleged are unauthorized sources of MP3's.... Plaintiffs did not produce such documents.
In many ways, this is reminiscent of the whole Dajaz1 situation, in which the lawyers are insisting that the distribution on various blogs is infringing, at the very same time that their marketing people are begging those same sites to offer up the songs
as a promotion.
Separate from all of this, but in the same filing, Robertson hits back on the claims that the use of cover art in MP3Tunes infringed. The filing notes that MP3Tunes had licensed all the cover art from Amazon and that EMI never even bother to show that it held the copyright in the cover art. All they showed was that the company had copyrights in the songs, but that's different from the cover art (and made more complicated by the fact that the copyright in the cover art might belong to the artists who created the art, rather than EMI).
All in all, the filing reinforces what's already come out in the earlier rulings: which is that EMI seems to have an incredibly weak case here, but due to what appears to be a random infatuation with going after Robertson personally, is just throwing everything it can at him.