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Universal wants us dead – MP3.com

Don't be daft - Judge Rackoff

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MP3.com'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 MP3.com accused Universal of trying to put it out of business.

MP3.com 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 MP3.com's MyMP3.com service had violated copyrights held by Universal, EMI, BMG, Sony and Warner.

Since then MP3.com 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 MP3.com would be force to cough up. However, no such deal was reached.

Why? According to MP3.com, because Universal wants punitive damages forced upon the online music company to put it out of business. MP3.com 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 FarmClub.com, a direct competitor to MP3.com.

Judge Rackoff, however, is having none of it. He ruled the accusation as "completely irrelevant". Since the hearing was begun to decide how wilfully MP3.com ripped off Universal's copyrights, he said, what Universal thinks of MP3.com doesn't matter a damn.

Depending on how wilful the court finds MP3.com, the company could pay fines of between $750 and $30,000 for each CD it used. ®

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