The Merits in the MP3.com Lawsuit.

Richard Menta - 5/08/00

New York (MP3 Newswire) - Throughout the legal brouhaha that MP3 has stirred up, most notably in the Napster and MP3.com suits, we have all been tempted to play armchair lawyer. MP3 Newswire received quite a few letters on both sides of the coin as has all news sites that give their readers a voice.


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Indeed, if John Madden ran a play-by-play of court cases every Sunday, we might have a better layman understanding of our legal system to do a passing show of it. But Madden doesn't, and we don't. The vagaries and gray areas tested by the last decade of technology is proving to be a significant challenge to the courts themselves, especially to lawyers and Judges who are novices to it.

To make matters worse, the speed of technological innovation and the potential impact it can have on our analog world can incite panic within the traditional businesses that Net companies are now challenging. Here, billions of dollars and control of the future of the music industry is involved, no small stakes. The panic comes in the form of these legal challenges that are expensive and draining for both sides, but whose effect is most felt by the less financially endowed tech startups.

Bottom line, the way laws are tested, expanded, corrected, and fine tuned in this country are through years and years of wrangling which usually ends in a high court and with a legal precedent from which all future cases are judged. Before that, they must go through lower courts that may follow different criteria by judge, district statute, and state.

The MP3.com case is not done yet, but it has set a short term litmus test for other MP3 sites on what they can and can't do, at least until this case comes to closure in a higher court or a deal is struck. The implications of MP3.com's loss and the RIAA's victory are, needless to say, considerable.

The Merits of the Case

Most users felt that MP3.com was in the right here and were shocked by the judgement. Interestingly, Judge Rakoff felt the merits of this case made it no-brainer.

"The complex marvels of cyberspatial communication may create difficult legal issues; but not in this case," Judge Rakoff wrote. "Defendant's infringement of plaintiffs' copyrights is clear."

Here are the points the Judge made on the case:

MP3.com Chairman/CEO Michael Robertson vows they will appeal, but that is a very expensive option and considering the recent drop in its stock price, a deal seems more in order. The Music industry has a big upper hand here and has always played tough in negotiations. But, if they can come to an agreement here, and let this decision stand as is, it will stand as notice to all Internet companies. That is their incentive not to spend several more years in court.

On the Internet, that's dog years. By that time, the case will probably be moot as a new technology arrives to challenge the music industry and the courts. Granted, that won't stop an impending rush of artists from joining the legal bandwagon like Paul McCartney, the Drifters, and Dr. Dre.

A decision in the Napster case is next.

Read MP3.com's reply on the judgement: Judgement Day for MP3.com

Copyright 2000 MP3 Newswire. All rights reserved.

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