Judge approves class-action status
US District Jude Loretta Preska has allowed a class-action lawsuit against RIAA music labels to continue forward. The lawsuit, which accuses major labels of conspiring to fix prices for digital music distribution, will be pursued under the Sherman Act to explore potential antitrust violations of federal law. Similar antitrust actions under New York state law will also be investigated, as well as other claims related to consumer protection and unjust enrichment.
Amazon aggressively seeking Cloud Player partners
Amazon is trying to secure agreements with the major music labels to secure licensing deals after launching its Cloud Player service on Tuesday. According to the Wall Street Journal, unnamed sources said the aggressive negotiations have the intention of making good with the four main record label groups after Amazon surprised them with the launch of the service. The music companies didn't immediately take kindly to the service, as it allows users to stream their existing music libraries to their portable devices from a remote server.
RIAA wins copyright lawsuit against LimeWire
A lawsuit that dates back to 2006 has been settled, with a federal court judge finding file-sharing service LimeWire liable for copyright infringement. The judge ruled in favor of the RIAA and its member labels that LimeWire's parent company engaged in 'unfair competition' and induced copyright infringement.
Qtrax outs music downloads
Qtrax recently announced that its free and legal music download service will soon launch, naming October 28th as the launch date in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. A launch in the US, Canada and the UK will happen before year's end, Qtrax informs, while the rest of the world will get the service within the first half of 2010. The reason for the initial Asia launch is because of the region's record Internet user growth and specifically the ratio of Internet users downloading music, which is more than double that of the US.
Apple expands record deals
Apple is planning to expand the content buyers receive when shopping for iTunes music, writes the Financial Times. The company is currently said to be in negotiations with the four major record labels -- EMI, Sony, Warner and Universal -- regarding a project called "Cocktail," aimed at boosting music sales by supplying interactive material with albums. At the core of the concept is a new booklet, which can mix photos, lyrics and liner notes.
Hulu to host music videos?
A new video-sharing website may be in the works, as the four major music labels -- Universal, Warner, EMI and Sony BMG -- are in preliminary talks for creating their own web portal, according to a weekend Financial Times report. Early last week, news came of the four labels planning to band together to create a site devoted to music videos and related content. More recently word has leaked of the three options the labels are considering, due to unhappiness with the ad revenue derived from the Google-owned YouTube. Under consideration is a premium service on YouTube, a totally new site, or a partnership with Hulu, the film and TV site jointly owned by News Corp. and NBC Universal.
Labels split on iTunes DRM
Hold-out major labels are split on what they want before allowing DRM-free tracks on the iTunes Store, anonymous sources claim. Although Apple CEO Steve Jobs has claimed to want DRM-free tracks on iTunes, only EMI and a host of independent labels have so far offered any material which can be copied without arbitrary restrictions. Apple benefits financially from DRM by forcing iTunes customers to use iPods for many tracks; this is not why DRM-free tracks have been slow in proliferating however, according to the sources.
DRM-free majors on iTunes?
Apple may have already completed negotiations with the three major record labels not yet on iTunes Plus, reports suggest. Apple is only recently said to have begun talks with Warner, Universal and Sony BMG to open up its catalog for the DRM-free Plus service, which currently hosts EMI and a collection of independent labels. Although Plus tracks are popular, allowing unlimited backups and broader media player support, most major-label tracks on iTunes are locked to Apple's FairPlay DRM.
Sony BMG Now Sony Music
Sony today announced that it has bought out Bertelsmann's 50 percent stake in Sony BMG and will now completely own its music label. The new label, named Sony Music Entertainment Inc. (SMEI), ends the short four-year run of Sony BMG and will let Sony create a "total entertainment experience" where the electronics giant can more closely integrate its music with its devices, according to company chief Sir Howard Stringer.
Sony Blames Loss on Phones
Sony today reported that its profit had dropped approximately 47 percent in the spring quarter versus the same quarter a year ago, representing one of the company's steeper drops in recent history. The Japanese company chiefly attributes the company-controlled aspects of the shortfall to poor Sony Ericsson results, which saw the company's cellphone sales virtually flatten as customers turned away from its mid-range and high-end phones, which target the same camera and music fields as devices like Apple's iPhone, LG's Viewty, and Nokia's Nseries.
Amazon May Back MySpace
The upcoming MySpace Music service may ultimately be run by another major online music store, say alleged sources for TechCrunch. The social networking site is described as most likely picking Amazon MP3 to handle the commerce behind the store but is also said to be entertaining offers from other companies, including Apple and RealNetworks. No commitments have yet been made.
Warner on Comes With Music
Nokia tonight signed on Warner Music Group to its Comes With Music unlimited subscription service, joining founding partner Universal and recent entrant Sony BMG in offering its back catalog. The deal lets users buy phones with a Comes With Music premium attached and download an unlimited amount of Warner's music (or of any other label) for a year; all tracks downloaded during that time are the user's to keep, addressing a common complaint regarding most subscription plans.
Nokia Refutes CWM Bias
Nokia today rebuffed claims that its Comes With Music service will damage the company financially. The Finnish cellphone maker denies that the deal will force it to accept losses on music downloads and says instead that the service was created from the outset for profit rather than the unfair deal biased in favor of music labels, as suggested by earlier reports.
Sony Joins CWM + 2 Nokia
Sony BMG today said it would join Nokia's Comes With Music unlimited music service, adding support beyond the initial Universal Music Group catalog. The announcement confirms recent rumors of talks and will let anyone purchasing a Comes With Music-based phone download unlimited music over the course of a year-long subscription. At the end of the term, phone owners can keep any downloaded tracks and either pay for a Nokia Music Store subscription or buy music a la carte.
Slacker signs music labels
Slacker, the creator of its namesake Portable Radio Player, has announced a deal for the support of all four major record labels: Warner, Universal, EMI and Sony BMG. The Portable is an unusual "radio" device in that it does not stream live music, but rather syncs with the Slacker service via USB or Wi-Fi, and copies up to 40 "stations" for listening offline as well as on. As music plays listeners can rate their tracks, and ban ones they do not want to hear again.
MySpace Music site
MySpace and three major record labels -- Warner, Universal and Sony BMG -- have confirmed earlier reports by announcing the creation of MySpace Music, a new online store. Visitors will have at least two options in visiting: streaming music for free, with the costs covered by advertising, or paid downloads, making MySpace the latest rival to outlets such as Amazon or Apple's iTunes Store. Also possible may be some form of subscription service, but this is still under consideration. No launch date has been announced.
MySpace Music Today
MySpace's frequently rumored music download store could launch as early as today, according to a rumor put forward by CNET. The publication claims to know sources who say that an initial announcement is planned that will expand the site's currently hands-off music section into a service that offers a combination of downloads and streams. Mirroring past stories, the feature would allegedly let users either pay to download full MP3 songs and ringtones or else stream songs for free on the web. Users could also buy their concert tickets directly from the site.
Sony BMG Subs Music
Sony BMG is considering a subscription-based music service that would work with all devices, according to remarks by label chief Rolf Schmidt-Holtz to the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. While the company is exploring other ideas, the executive notes that the firm is considering an option that would allow unlimited downloads for most any portable music player, including iPods. Such a plan would cost between 6 and 8 Euros ($9 to $12) per month but would also allow users to keep between 40 and 50 of the tracks they download each year, eliminating common complaints about music disappearing once a subscription ends.
Sony Warner and MySpace
Two major music labels are close to signing a deal for the rumored MySpace Music online store, say sources talking to the New York Post. Both Sony BMG and Warner Music are reportedly near the end of talks that would make their catalogs available the service, which is still expected to offer paid MP3 downloads as well as ad-subsidized free streams of music and videos. The feature is also now said to have downloadable ringtones through a deal with News Corp.-owned (and MySpace sister company) Jamba.
Musical 'Hulu' on MySpace?
News Corporation is planning a musical equivalent of its Hulu video venture with NBC, a new report claims. News is allegedly after a deal with the four major music labels -- EMI, Warner, Universal and Sony BMG -- who would each provide equity for a new opeartion. It would be carried and controlled by News' MySpace division, but the intent is to create a shared portal, where people would be able to listen to DRM-free music in exchange for subjecting themselves to advertising.
Pirate Bay access in EU
A recent Danish court decision against an ISP violates EU law, a Swedish judge has declared. Cecilia Renfors, a government investigator being asked to propose new file-sharing legislation, says that Denmark was in error when it told Tele2 to prevent customers from reaching The Pirate Bay, a site well-known for aiding piracy through hosting BitTorrent trackers. The site's owners are in fact facing copyright infringement accusations from a group including Fox, EMI, Sony BMG and Universal.
US DoJ inquiry, Universal
Universal's Total Music service is the subject of Federal inquiry after the US Justice Department sent a letter to the Universal Music Group requesting information about the planned service. Yahoo News reports that this follows a similar letter obtained by Sony BMG – neither label would comment, and letters sent to the Justice Department went unanswered.
Chinese piracy allegations
The most popular search engine in China may be facing legal sanctions over music piracy, says Agence France-Presse. Three of the four major labels -- Warner, Universal and Sony BMG -- have filed a request in a Beijing court, asking that Baidu pull down links to illegal music. Specifically, the labels allege that Baidu is indexing illegal hosting sites, while simultaneously profiting from advertising. Music trade group IFPI claims that piracy in China has dramatically hurt its own profits, with over 99 percent of tracks in the country said to be distributed illegally.
Pirate Bay Charged
Well-known pirated material site The Pirate Bay has been charged with its first clear copyright infringement case, according to reports. A combination of major movie labels and music studios, including EMI, Fox, Sony BMG, and Universal, accuse the Swedish-run site of profiting from linking to BitTorrents from pages with advertising; as much as $4 million US a year is generated through normal traffic, according to the Swedish prosecutor in the case, Hakan Roswall. Labels involved with the suit are demanding as much as a $188,000 fine for each of the four principal site operators and that computers they own be confiscated.
Qtrax in Doubt
Peer-to-peer service Qtrax is raising controversy by failing to make its intended Monday release date and offer what it claims would be some of the first free, legal peer-to-peer downloads from all four major music labels, says a report from Silicon Alley Insider. Although Qtrax has claimed that it would launch today with music from EMI, Sony BMG, Universal, and Warner, a challenge by the Bay Area publication reveals that most of the deals are either incomplete or unknown. Both EMI and Warner have denied authorizing music altogether; Universal is in talks with Qtrax while Sony BMG has not responded at all, according to the report.
Sony-Ericsson this morning revealed an aggressive step into online music with expanded plans for its upcoming PlayNow arena music service. The cellphone producer says it has now struck deals to offer downloadable full tracks from major labels EMI, Warner Music, and its sibling Sony BMG as well as larger independents such as The Orchard and X5. This will add up to more than five million songs available for owners of Sony-Ericsson handsets, the company says. No details have been given as to whether the catalog will extend to the ordinary PlayNow service already available today, which sells some full music as well as ringtones.
EMI threatens IFPI, RIAA
Major label EMI may be leaving the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), reports say. Its executives are further said to be engaged in talks with Warner, Universal and Sony BMG, in an attempt to alter the priorities and structure are several trade groups, including the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). EMI sent a letter to IFPI officials for that very reason, claiming that it would abandon its membership unless the organization conformed to EMI's interests. Funding to the IFPI could be cut off by March 31st.
DRM-free Sony on Amazon
Amazon.com today said it is now selling unprotected music from Sony BMG, making the online retailer the first store to offer DRM-free songs from all four major music labels in MP3 format, according to a report from Reuters. Apple's iTunes Store announced the availability of iTunes Plus in early April, with unprotected MP3 music files from EMI's catalog at a slightly higher price.
Sony DRM-free Music
Sony BMG earlier today made its first steps towards joining other labels in eliminating copy protection from music downloads. Rather than offer content through iTunes or other stores directly, Sony will buy cards at stores for the company's Platnium MusicPass service; redeemed cards will then be good for a certain number of tracks in MP3 format from the company's music catalog. Each card will cost about $13 each and should provide access to about 37 albums on launch with more on the way, Sony BMG says. It launches in North American retail chains starting from the 15th and should expand to other territories later on.
Sony BMG Dropping DRM Soon
Sony BMG will soon join the other major labels in dropping digital rights management (DRM) protection from its music sold online, according to claims by BusinessWeek. The magazine points to anonymous sources which say the record company will shed copy protection on at least some of its digital catalog before the end of March, allowing users to copy or move songs to other computers and portable media players. The move follows similar efforts by EMI, Universal, and now Warner to spur sales by overcoming distrust of proprietary copy protection schemes.
Music Sales Free-Fall
Music sales during the holidays have dropped by a dramatic extent in 2007, Variety magazine writes. Although a handful of titles such as Josh Groban's Noel have fared well, the overall number of albums sold has dropped from 105.3 to 83.9 million between 2006 and 2007 for the peak holiday shopping period following US Thanksgiving -- a drop of about 21 percent, the publication says. Sales during the last week hit a predicted spike and jumped 42 percent but were still 18 percent down from the year before.