A New York federal court has ruled that cloud music service MP3tunes.com is compliant with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), even as the site’s founder, longtime digital music entrepreneur Michael Robertson, is personally liable for copyright infringement.
Both MP3tunes and EMI Music can claim victory in the court’s decision, which comes after nearly four years of litigation between the record label and the music service. The court seeks to maintain the DMCA’s balancing of interests between copyright holders and digital service providers. Highlights from the 29-page opinion of U.S. District Judge William Pauley:
• Cloud music services can merit safe harbor protection under the DMCA. The safe-harbor protection even extends to MP3tunes sister site, Sideload.com, which enables users transfer music files from third-party web addresses into their personal MP3tunes lockers. (Neither Amazon.com nor Google Music offer such a feature for their respective cloud music services.) Among the facts the court cited in MP3tunes’ favor was the company’s tracking of the sources of every sideloaded song in users’ lockers, its compliance with specific DMCA takedown requests, and its terminating the accounts of 153 users who allowed others to access their personal lockers and copy music files.
• The burden remains on rights holders to notify service providers of specific infringing activity. According to the court, EMI’s demand that MP3tunes simply remove “all of EMI’s copyrighted works” from users’ lockers provided insufficient information for the site to comply with the takedown notice.
• Service providers, for their part, must maintain a certain level of infrastructure to ensure DMCA compliance. “Where service providers such as MP3tunes allow users to search for copyrighted works posted to the internet and to store those works in private accounts, to qualify for DMCA protection, those service providers must (1) keep track of the source and web address of stored copyrighted material, and (2) take content down when copyright owners identify the infringing sources in otherwise compliant notices,” Judge Pauley wrote.
• Users of cloud music services still can be liable for copyright infringement. Judge Pauley ruled MP3tunes founder Michael Robertson was liable for loading EMI songs from unauthorized websites into his personal MP3tunes account.