Legislation Launched In Support of MP3 Format
The bill could end a legal battle the company is facing over charges of copyright infringement.
Dubbed the “Million E-mail March,” the campaign supports a bill introduced this week by Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., and three Republican co-sponsors.
The bill would amend federal copyright laws to make it legal to create a digital copy of arecording, known as an MP3 file, after first proving ownership of the music. Consumers wouldthen be able to send that file over the Internet and listen to the digital copy from a remotelocation.
It’s just that activity that resulted in a landmark legal case brought by the five major music labels against San Diego-based MP3.com. The company introduced its My.Mp3.com listeningservice earlier this year, which allowed a listener to briefly insert a compact disc into a computerto prove ownership of the CD, then listen to a digital copy of the music already stored on acomputer at MP3.com’s headquarters.
Mp3.com argued it should only have to buy and store one copy of a CD on its computers and allow multiple users to listen. The record companies argued the system shortchanged them and violated their copyrights because MP3.com was allowing millions of people to listen to one CD.
The My.Mp3.com service differs from the music-sharing Web site Napster, which faces legal challenges of its own, because it merely sends the music to listening devices, such as a computer or a wireless music player. Napster lets users download an actual computer file and make copies of it.
Four of the five record labels settled the case and granted MP3.com licenses to continue the service. The fifth, Universal Music Group, pursued the case.
Earlier this month, a federal judge in New York ruled that MP3.com violated copyrights of music companies and awarded Universal $25,000 per CD – a penalty that could reach as much as $250 million. The company plans to appeal, and the case is likely to reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
Boucher said Thursday that if his bill becomes law before a final ruling is issued, it could make the case against Mp3.com moot.
“The four companies that have licensed this technology understand its power and are opting to use it to their advantage,” Boucher said. “One company … has decided to pursue the extinction of this company.”
Representatives of Universal did not immediately return a call for comment.
Boucher said the kind of technology developed by MP3.com and made legal by his bill would allow music buyers to listen to their stored songs in their car after satellite Internet access is perfected, in their office or from a friend’s computer. The bill would only apply to music that issent, or streamed, not music that is downloaded.
Boucher said his bill will not be considered before Congress recesses in several weeks but he will reintroduce it when the next session convenes in January. The MP3.com campaign is aimed at flooding Congress with e-mails in support of the bill and mobilizing music consumers to lobby candidates, the company said.
“The goal is to inform politicians that there is a huge audience of CD owners that this is an important issue to,” said Michael Robertson, chairman and chief executive of MP3.com.