Universal wants us dead –

Don't be daft - Judge Rackoff's attempt to settle its copyright infringement differences with Universal, the last of the world's major record labels not to do so, got ugly yesterday when accused Universal of trying to put it out of business. has been talking to Universal in an attempt to win both the right to use the latter's music and to pay for using Universal-owned songs without permission. Back in April, US District Court Judge Jed S Rackoff ruled that's service had violated copyrights held by Universal, EMI, BMG, Sony and Warner.

Since then has settled with the latter four, reputedly paying them around $20 million apiece in damages and future licensing rights.

Talks with Universal were expected to be settled this week, before both parties needed to return to court to hear what damages would be force to cough up. However, no such deal was reached.

Why? According to, because Universal wants punitive damages forced upon the online music company to put it out of business. lawyer Michael Carlinski yesterday called Seagram president and CEO Edgar Bronfman a hostile witness out to "publicly vilify" the online operation. Seagram owns Universal. It also owns, a direct competitor to

Judge Rackoff, however, is having none of it. He ruled the accusation as "completely irrelevant". Since the hearing was begun to decide how wilfully ripped off Universal's copyrights, he said, what Universal thinks of doesn't matter a damn.

Depending on how wilful the court finds, the company could pay fines of between $750 and $30,000 for each CD it used. ®

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