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MP3.com faces $450m damages bill

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Universal wants $450 million in damages from MP3.com, the music label said yesterday.

The request was made in the company's closing statement in the hearing convened last week to decide whether MP3.com's infringement of its copyrights was wilful and, on the basis of that decision, how much the online music business must pay Universal in damages.

Universal's lawyers want $45,000 for each of the 10,000 CDs it reckons MP3.com illegally copied for the MyMP3.com 'virtual CD library' service.

In total, Universal's request is way above the $20 million MP3.com is believed to have paid out to each of the other four major music labels - Sony, EMI, BMG and Warner - that sued it earlier this year. MP3.com settled with those plaintiffs out of court - in Sony's case mere weeks before the damages hearing was due to begin.

In response to the Universal request, MP3.com's lawyer, Michael Rhodes, told the court that such a sum "could never be satisfied and would end up being the largest paper award in history". His implication is that MP3.com would be put out of business by such a sum. Earlier in the hearing, Rhodes claimed that that was Universal's goal and the motivation behind its refusal to settle out of court.

Universal said it wants the presiding judge, US District Court Judge Jed Rakoff, to impose damages on such as scale both as a punishment for MP3.com and as a deterrent to other would-be copyright violators. ®

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