Sony Music Entertainment and five other major music companies sued the non-profit Internet Archive, saying that its posting of thousands of old songs and recordings online amounts to “wholesale theft” of copyright-protected music.
The Internet Archive’s “blatant infringement includes hundreds of thousands of works by some of the greatest artists of the Twentieth Century,” lawyers for the record companies said in a lawsuit filed Friday in Manhattan federal court. Among the artists cited: Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong and Thelonious Monk.
The companies include a list of 2749 recordings in the lawsuit, including Bing Crosby singing” White Christmas,” that “is but a small sample” of recordings the archive posted without permission, according to the complaint. They are asking the court to order the archive to remove all copyrighted material and pay damages of as much as $150,000 for each infringed work, which for the listed recordings would amount to $372 million.
The Internet Archive maintains a vast digital collection of text, video and music online. On its Great 78 Project website, it posts digitized copies, which it solicits from users, of records in the antiquated 78 LP format.
It boasts on the site of having posted more than 400,000 recordings and that its purpose is “the preservation, research and discovery of 78rpm records.”
But the record companies says the archive’s altruistic claims are a ”smokescreen” to disguise its theft.
The recordings “are already available for streaming or downloading from numerous services” authorized by the record companies, the lawyers for the record companies wrote. “These recordings face no danger of being lost, forgotten, or destroyed.”
In 2018, Congress passed the Music Modernization Act that extended the copyright for pre1972 music to 2067.
Sony is joined in the suit by UMG Recordings Inc., Capitol Records LLC, Concord Bicycle Assets LLC, CMGI Recorded Music Assets LLC and Arista Music.
Internet Archive did not respond to a request for comment after business hours Friday.
The suit is UMG Recordings Inc. v. Internet Archive, 1:23-cv-07133, US District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).