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Litigious recording company Universal is itself being sued - for posting songs on the Internet, allegedly without the permission of the song writers and their publishers.

Well, what's sauce for the goose... Universal looks like it could take a bashing as vigorous as the one it gave to MP3.com

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal's online edition, the music publishers are claiming that Universal's Farmclub.com site infringes their copyrights. Essentially, they reckon Universal does not own the online distribution rights to their songs.

The issue of digital rights ownership is likely to become an increasingly contentious one as content creators question the right many content distributors claim to have to distribute their material online. Just because, say, a magazine publisher has the right to print a writer's feature, that doesn't necessarily mean it also has the right to issue that same feature on the Net.

Ditto record companies who may have permission to issue a song on CD, but not online in MP3 format.

We hear that a group of freelance journalists in the US are suing a leading national newspaper for posting their copy on its Web site without permission. And here in the UK, a number of publishers are trying to persuade authors to sign contracts that yield online publication rights effectively for free.

The anti-Universal suit is backed by some major publishers, including Elvis' publishing organisation - so that's what he's been up to all these years - the Rogers & Hammerstein Organisation and Leiber & Stoller. The suit, filed in the New York District Court demands damages of $150,000 per song.

Modern recording contracts are beginning to include clauses assigning online distribution rights to the music labels - Sony Music Entertainment, formerly known as CBS, has been doing so for just over two years now. ®

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