New Lawsuit Claims Apple Is Part of a ‘Massive Music Piracy Operation’

CDs with Skull And Crossbones Piracy Credit: kaprik / Shutterstock
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Despite Apple’s laudable efforts at fairly compensating songwriters and the tight ship that it runs with the iTunes Store and Apple Music, it seems that at least one songwriter — or his estate at least — feels that the company not only hasn’t been doing enough to prevent piracy, but is actually actively engaged in it.

A new lawsuit by the estate of Harold Arlen — the composer of classic songs such as the Wizard of Oz’s 1939 Over the Rainbow — is accusing not only Apple, but also Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Pandora of selling unauthorized recordings of some of the songwriter’s most famous music. According to Forbes, the lawsuit claims that the tech giants are involved in a “massive music piracy operation,” having joined with “notorious music pirates” to sell and stream thousands of pirated recordings, including over 6,000 unauthorized recordings of Arlen’s music.

In fact, according to the lawsuit, digital music stores are now “flooded” with unauthorized copies of Arlen’s songs that are being sold under a whole range of different record labels, often for less than the price of the authorized copies.

It is hard to imagine that a person walking into Tower Records, off the street, with arms full of CD’s and vinyl records and claiming to be the record label for Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald, could succeed in having that store sell their copies directly next to the same albums released by legendary record labels, Capitol, RCA, and Columbia, and at a lower price, yet this exact practice occurs every day in the digital music business.

Lawyers for the estate of Harold Arlen

Lawyers for Arlen’s estate note that the problem is exacerbated by the “unlimited digital shelf space” of online music retailers, along with their “complete willingness” to actively seek out recordings from any source, regardless of its legitimacy, as long as they can make a buck off of it.

The lawsuit also pulls no punches, alleging that this is not a mistake, but rather deliberate infringement by Apple and the other online music stores, who it says “have had knowledge of their own infringing conduct and that of the many of the pirate label and distributor defendants for several years, and have continued to work with them” and that Apple and the others simply don’t care where the music comes from, since the more music they have on their stores, the more customers and subscribers they can attract.

Anything less than maximum statutory damage awards would encourage infringement, amount to a slap on the wrist, and reward multibillion and trillion dollar companies that rule the digital music markets for their willful infringement on a grand scale.

Lawyers for the estate of Harold Arlen

In addition to forcing Apple and other digital music retailers to end the alleged copyright infringement by pulling all of the unauthorized copies from their online stores, the attorneys for the deceased songwriter are looking for the maximum available damages under the U.S. federal copyright laws. However, since these would only add up to $4.5 million across all of the defendants collectively, it’s generous to call such damages even a “slap on the wrist” for a trillion-dollar company like Apple.

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