To Err Is Human, To Arr Is Pirate – Court Forces Major Labels To Pay $45M In Copyright Violation Claims
The big four major labels – EMI, Sony, Universal, and Warner – are being required to pay upwards of $45 million to a group of artists and composers to close a class action lawsuit filed against them in Canada. This agreement will resolve the copyright infringement claims that were brought against them for selling CDs containing songs that the record labels had not secured the rights for.
Artists were placed a "pending list" and many on that list had gone unpaid for years. For this illegal use of thousands of tracks, the major labels risked paying damages up to $6 billion. However, the two parties have agreed on the settlement of $45 million, which will be used to resolve all outstanding "pending list" claims.
Canadian law professor Michael Geist noted that the major labels had "little motivation to pay up" and dedicated inadequate resources to identifying and paying the artists and composers on the pending lists, but this "class action lawsuit clearly got their attention". Though he argues, "it is striking that it took a class action settlement to get the record labels to address their own ongoing copyright infringing practices in paying artists for the use of their works."
Many were quick to point out the apparent double standard when it comes to copyright. Saying that the major labels have pursued lawsuits against file sharing sites and music fans for infringing on copyrights under the guise of fairness and ensuring artists get paid for their creative works. Yet, as this class action lawsuit reveals, the major labels aren't always that forthright themselves when it comes to making certain that artists get paid when they use their creative works too.
Ernesto at TorrentFreak argued that this settlement doesn't mean that these pirate like practices will stop, as a "real solution would require the licensing system to change, and that's not likely to happen anytime soon." One might hope that's not the case and that this class action lawsuit will bring about real change. But, perhaps similar to the case that the major labels pursued against file-sharers, just because they get sued doesn't mean illegal behavior will stop.