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Amazon and Google sued again over bootleg recordings

By | Published on Friday 24 January 2020


Another round of lawsuits have been filed accusing the digital services of carrying a load of unlicensed recordings, pushed onto their platforms by independent record companies with no rights in that music. The latest litigation targets Amazon and Google.

The lawsuits are being led by the estates of songwriters who control the copyright in the songs contained in the allegedly infringing recordings. Although a compulsory licence covers the mechanical copying of songs in the US, that doesn’t apply if the recordings being copied are not properly licensed. Therefore the digital platforms can be sued by the songwriters as well as the labels – mainly majors – who own the rights in the infringed records.

The son of the late Harold Arlen – who wrote ‘Over The Rainbow’, ‘I’ve Got The World On A String’ and ‘Get Happy’, among many other famous works – went legal on this issue last May. He argued that there were multiple versions of the most famous recordings of his father’s songs on the digital platforms, some uploaded by the labels that own those recordings, but others by companies with no stake in the masters.

The estates of Harry Warren and Ray Henderson then also went legal. Those lawsuits list as defendants most of the main download and streaming platforms, as well as the indie labels who are allegedly uploading the unlicensed albums and tracks, and the distributors those indies utilise.

Amazon and Google are involved in some of those existing lawsuits too. The reason for the new litigation seems to be that the estates of Arlen, Warren and Henderson have found another business allegedly distributing old major label controlled sound recordings without licence.

That business is called Limitless, which is seemingly owned by one Giacomo Verani via a London-based company. The firm’s Australia-based distributor Valleyarm is also listed as a defendant.

Among other things, the lawsuit accuses Limitless of pushing unofficial recordings onto Amazon and Google Play by the likes of The Beach Boys, James Brown, Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Sarah Vaughan, Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, Roy Orbison, Charlie Parker and Elvis Presley.

In relation to Google, the lawsuit notes that Google Play customers have spotted that Limitless linked recordings on the platform are not official. “Google’s own customers have noticed that the Limitless albums are pirated and have alerted Google to the piracy”, the lawsuit states, “but Google has not taken any action”.

It goes on: “The Limitless bootleg catalogue page on Google Play has elicited comments from Google users noting the poor quality of the recordings and asking, ‘Not on Sony? Then why is Google streaming this bootleg?’ All of this should have made it obvious that Limitless is operating a huge music piracy operation. Valleyarm and Google chose to ignore the evidence of piracy and to participate in the infringement on a massive scale”.

Defendants in the case are yet to comment.