(Adds comment from Sony chairman)
By Nate Raymond
NEW YORK, March 26 The former chief executive of
defunct online music storage firm MP3tunes was ordered to pay an
estimated $41 million on Wednesday after being found liable for
infringing copyrights owned by record companies and music
publishers once part of EMI Group Ltd.
Lawyers for Michael Robertson and the EMI companies are
expected to take until next Tuesday to figure out exactly how
much money was awarded in the complex, lengthy verdict issued by
the federal jury in Manhattan.
But a lawyer for EMI, Luke Platzer, estimated after the
verdict was read that it added up to roughly $41 million. The
verdict included $7.5 million in punitive damages.
The verdict came a week after the same jury found Robertson
and the bankrupt company liable on various copyright
The case marked the latest victory for the music industry in
its court battles with online content providers like Napster,
Grokster and LimeWire, which they have accused of illegally
distributing copyrighted recordings, resulting in lost revenue
Ira Sacks, a lawyer for Robertson, said he planned to
appeal, saying that many of the claims against his client were
Andrew Bart, a lawyer for the EMI recording labels, declined
"Sony/ATV Music Publishing commends the jury on their
careful consideration of the facts and their decision in the
MP3Tunes.com case," Martin Bandier, chairman and chief executive
of Sony/ATV Music Publishing, said in a statement.
"The judicial process has worked in favor of the songwriter
and demonstrated a respect for the copyrights laws," he said.
"We will continue to vigorously pursue action against those who
have disregarded the copyright laws of the works entrusted in
Founded in 2005 initially as a website selling independent
musicians' songs, San Diego-based MP3tunes came to be known for
its so-called cloud music service that allowed users to store
music in online lockers.
EMI, however, contended in a 2007 lawsuit that the MP3tunes
website and a related one called Sideload.com enabled the
infringement of copyrights in sound recordings, musical
compositions and cover art.
The lawsuit was regarded in some circles as a barometer for
how courts might view cloud-based music storage services.
In the trial, Robertson's lawyers contended MP3tunes had
shut out users who abused the locker system and that many of the
songs had been made available online for free by EMI as a
In the years since the lawsuit was filed, EMI was split up,
with Vivendi SA's Universal Music Group buying its
recording music business and a consortium led by Sony Corp
acquiring its publishing arm in 2012. MP3tunes filed
for bankruptcy in May 2012.
The lawsuit was only the most recent run-in between the
recording industry and Robertson. In 1997 he founded MP3.com, a
website that allowed users to play music the company copied from
thousands of CDs it bought, as long as users could show they
already owned the music.
A federal judge's ruling against MP3.com in 2000 led to a
shutdown of the service and more than $160 million in estimated
payouts by the company to the five major record labels and music
MP3.com was sold a year later to Vivendi Universal for about
$372 million, with $120 million going to Robertson's family
trust, he testified at trial. The website is today owned by CBS
The case is Capital Records Inc et al v. MP3tunes LLC et al,
U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Dan Grebler and Kenneth