Cloud music services aren't liable for illegal music held on them by users, a US judge has ruled.
The court narrowed a lawsuit by EMI and 14 other record companies and music publishers that accused 'cloud music provider' MP3tunes of letting users copy their songs without permission.
US District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan ruled that MP3tunes does not violate the American Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in permitting downloads, except as to songs specifically identified as having been pirated.
Essentially the judge said it was users placed the responsibility for any infringements with users rather than MP3tunes.
Users can still download songs from publicly available websites, and store them without a separate license fee
"While a reasonable person might conclude after some investigation that the websites used by MP3tunes executives were not authorised to distribute EMI's copyrighted works, the DMCA does not place the burden of investigation on the internet service provider," Pauley wrote.
MP3tunes is a so-called cloud music service that lets users store music in online lockers. Amazon.com, Apple and Google have or are developing similar services; with Apples iCloud is due for an autumn release.
"This is a huge victory," said Greg Gulia, a partner at Duane Morris who represents MP3tunes and Robertson. "Users can still download songs from publicly available websites, and store them without a separate license fee, so long as MP3tunes complies with takedown notices. The main takeaway is that MP3tunes' fundamental business model has been upheld."
Pauley did, however, find the defendants liable for "contributory" copyright infringement for songs where notices of alleged infringement were provided. He also said Robertson was liable for having personally transferred songs from unauthorised websites.
An EMI spokesman expressed disappointment with the decision, they said: "EMI believes that companies like MP3tunes, which knowingly build a business based on stolen music, should not be entitled to any DMCA safe harbour defence, and we're evaluating our options to seek review of those portions of the decision."
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