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The Complex State of the Music Industry: Everyone Sue Everyone

| Jan 25, 2010 | Entertainment Law

The music industry continues to be a hotbed for litigation. It’s penchant for controversy is sometimes staggering. What’s happening just this week:

A court today reduced the “monstrous and shocking” (Judge Davis’ words, not mine) $2 million dollar fine imposed on Jammie Thomas-Rasset for illegally downloading 24 songs on the internet. Now the mother of 4 will only have to come up with a mere $54,000.00 or $2250 per song. Ms. Thomas-Rasset, unable to pay anywhere near 50 thousand, plans to continue her appeal.

Universal Music Group has filed a lawsuit against the website Grooveshark. Grooveshark already settled a similar lawsuit with EMI, but now face the wrath of Universal who claims that grooveshark is hosting illegal copies of their songs for the public to hear. Universal claims that grooveshark is paying nothing to provide online access to their songs.

And everyone’s favorite target for plagiarism, Coldplay, is being targeted yet again. This time, a rocker named Sammie Lee Smith, is claiming that Coldplay have stolen no less than 3 songs from his catalog. It appears that Mr. Smith has a poorly imagined plan to sue any artist for copyright infringement. He has apparently recorded thousands of songs over the past few decades. Although, the overwhelming majority of these songs have never been released or heard by anyone other than himself, he is quick to point out if any melody or riff sounds like something in his vast catalog. Copyright infringement lawsuits are tough and I am skeptical about this one. Although, Satriani may be onto something with his lawsuit.

Eddie Vedder, of Pearl Jam fame, is also being sued over his cover of the Gordon Peterson song, “Hard Sun”. Vedder had the legal license to cover the song which found itself on the Into the Wild soundtrack, but Peterson is claiming Vedder altered the lyrics to his song thereby “eroding the integrity of the composition.”