|U.S. District Judge Jed. S. Rakoff ruled Wednesday that MP3.com had willfully violated the copyrights of the Universal Music Group and hit the online music company with $25,000 of damages for each CD that was illegally copied.
Prior to Rakoff's ruling, MP3.com's attorney claimed that damages that exceeded $500 per CD would be a "death sentence" to the online company. But Rakoff, who could have ruled for damages as high as $150,000 per infringement, criticized them for their "misconception that, because their technology is somewhat novel, they are somehow immune from the ordinary applications of laws of the United States."
MP3.com immediately issued a statement citing its intention to appeal the ruling. "We believe that everyone should have the right to listen to the music they purchase, even if it's on the Internet," said MP3.com Chairman and CEO Michael Robertson. "While we respect the court, we disagree with the court's decision and we look forward to taking our case to the Court of Appeals."
The ruling came just a day after attorneys for Universal asked Rakoff for a ruling of $450 million for an estimated 10,000 albums' worth copyright infringements. Though Universal wasn't granted their specific request, the Recording Industry Association of America nonetheless basked in yet another court victory. "We're obviously pleased with today's ruling," said Cary Sherman, senior executive vice president and general counsel for the RIAA. "This should send a message that there are consequences when a business recklessly disregards copyright law."
Rakoff found MP3.com guilty of copyright violations in April, faulting their database of 80,000 albums on their MyMP3.com service as the culprit. The service allows users to store CDs in the database and then access it through any computer. Despite the April ruling, four of the five major labels settled with MP3.com over the summer, leaving Universal as the sole remaining plaintiff.
The trial will continue in November, at which point the specific number of violations will be determined.