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MP3.com countersues music industry trade body

We're not paranoid -- the RIAA really is out to get us, claims virtual CD player company

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Online music company MP3.com has countersued the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and its president and CEO, Hilary Rosen, following legal action launched by the RIAA against it last month. MP3.com is alleging the RIAA is essentially attempting to beat up on it for its pro-MP3 stance. In a sense, MP3.com only has itself to blame. It's spent the last year or so setting itself up as the voice of the MP3 user community, so it's no surprise that it should attract the attention of the RIAA, the voice of the US music industry. And if you don't want to be shot at, don't stick your head over the parapet. CEO Michael Robertson's statement on the countersuit is full of words and phrases like 'bullying tactics', 'aggressive tactics' and 'unfair business practices'. It's clear MP3.com is taking the RIAA's actions very personally indeed and reckons the trade body is out to get it. Easy enough to say, of course, but rather more difficult to prove. Robertson's statement says: "After we get to the bottom of all of their actions toward MP3.com, we will vigorously pursue all of our legal remedies." Which kind of implies the company doesn't yet have really solid evidence of active RIAA hostility toward it beyond last month's lawsuit. That case centres on MP3.com's MyMP3.com 'virtual CD player' service, which allows users to play music they own on any PC via a Web browser and downloaded MP3 files. The RIAA says this is a massive copyright infringement. MP3.com denies the charge, claiming that users have to own the track before they can listen to it. The downloaded tracks come from MP3.com's own collection of albums, but since the user already has a CD of the track they want to hear, the company argues that the download is legally tantamount to the user copying their CD for personal use. It's a thorny case that can be well-argued from both sides. The RIAA's claims are not baseless, so you can't entirely blame the RIAA for launching it -- it's not exclusively about tying MP3.com up with legalities to hinder the company's business, as MP3.com alleges. That said, MP3.com claims to have been willing to work with RIAA officials to show that the service doesn't violate artists' and labels' rights, but that the RIAA sternly refused to co-operate, so it too has a point. ® Related Story Music biz sues Napster

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