Music giant takes on companies selling care packages for prisoners, which include unauthorised mixtapes featuring Universal artists
In an age of declining record sales, you’ve got to do anything you can to prevent people getting music for free. Even if they are in prison. That’s the view the world’s largest music company is taking. Universal Music has filed a complaint with the US district court in California against companies selling “care packages” for families to send to prisoners, and which contain mixtapes.
“Defendants boast on their website that their business ‘was developed to eliminate contraband,’ yet the infringing copies of Plaintiffs’ sound recordings and musical compositions, in which Defendants unlawfully transact and from which they unjustly profit, are contraband personified,” the lawsuit notes.
The Hollywood Reporter notes that some companies are authorised to distribute music, but says the Universal complaint says those it names – including Centric Group and Keefe Group – are not among the with that right.
The complaint states: “Defendants have unlawfully, and without authority from Plaintiffs, reproduced, distributed, and prepared derivative works based on, Plaintiffs’ sound recordings and musical compositions. Defendants sell pirate copies of Plaintiffs’ copyrighted and otherwise protected works through physical catalogs and a website.”
The care packages are available in 40 states, and promotional websites contain copyright notices, “indicating that Defendants are aware of and understand copyright law, and use it to protect their own rights. Yet Defendants have acted in willful and reckless disregard of, and with indifference to, Plaintiffs’ rights.”
Universal says it had contacted the companies concerned and asked them to stop circulating mixtapes containing Universal recordings, and to supply a list of all Universal songs they had put on mixtapes. But, the complaint says, the care package firms “have refused to take their infringement seriously, brushing off Plaintiff’s complaints as a nuisance”.
Among the Universals artists found on the mixtapes are James Brown, Eminem, Tupac, LL Cool J, Nas, Mary J Blige, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, “to name just a few”. Universal is demanding statutory damages of $150,000 for each copyrighted work infringed, or an award of the defendants’ profits, plus restitution of unlawful proceeds, punitive and exemplary damages, and an injunction to stop further infringements.
This article was written by Guardian music, for theguardian.com on Thursday 8th January 2015 08.31 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010