Legal Top Stories

Bluebeat downloads infringed copyright

By | Published on Monday 13 December 2010

A US judge has ruled that was indeed infringing the copyrights of EMI when it started selling the major’s music as MP3s for as little as 25 cents a track without a licence back in autumn 2009.

As previously reported, the low price download store came to wider attention when MusicAlly noticed that among the EMI tracks being sold by the service was The Beatles catalogue, then not available legitimately anywhere on the internet, and now only available legally from iTunes.

When EMI’s lawyers went to court for an injunction to shut down the download store, the digital enterprise’s founder, Hank Risan, came forward with an argument that was definitely original. He said he’d digitally recreated the tracks he was selling using “psycho-acoustic simulation”, and that in doing so a new sound recording copyright had been created that belonged to him and not EMI.

While scoring highly on the originality front, the digital recreation line wasn’t very effective in court, partly because of allegations Risan had actually just ripped tracks from his CD collection for his download store, and partly because, even it some sort of clever soundwave replication had taken place, it seems certain the copyright would still lie with whoever owned the rights in the original recording that had been replicated.

A judge first rejected Risan’s arguments in November 2009, issuing an indefinite injunction ordering to stop selling EMI’s music. Last week it was ruled that was guilty of copyright infringement during the short time it sold downloads, though as yet there has been no indication on what damages the digital company will be forced to pay. says it sold 67,000 downloads before being shut down.

Judge Josephine Tucker said in her ruling: “Risan’s obscure and undefined pseudo-scientific language appears to be a long-winded way of describing ‘sampling’, ie copying, and fails to provide any concrete evidence of independent creation”.

BlueBeat’s streaming music service, which preceded the download venture, continues to operate. The legitimacy of that is also questionable, not least because it also has The Beatles in its catalogue, when the Fab Four’s songs have not been licensed to any streaming services as yet. Somewhat dubiously, the BlueBeat streaming player carries the line: “You are listening to fully-licensed simulated performances (c)2010”.