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Independent music label Unity Entertainment filed a class-action lawsuit against online music site MP3.com on Nov. 16 alleging copyright violations similar to the ones Universal Music Group settled early last week. A class action may give the site a chance to resolve all claims against it now that it has settled with all the majors. Unity filed its suit against MP3.com in Los Angeles just 48 hours after the site agreed in a New York federal court to pay Universal $53.4 million for copyright violations. The judgment, requested by Universal and agreed to by MP3.com, ended the last legal challenge filed by all five major record labels against the company’s operations. MP3.com spent an estimated $150 million to settle with the five major recording groups and secure licenses to their copyrighted material. “On behalf of both consumers and artists, we are disappointed to receive this complaint particularly in light of the strides we have made in securing licensing agreements from now all five of the major record labels,” CEO Michael Robertson said in a statement MP3.com issued Thursday. This particular lawsuit may not be as troublesome for MP3.com as the previous cases. For one, until now several indie labels had filed suit against the site, and MP3.com had said it would handle them individually — this case allows MP3.com to face the suits all at once and reach a conclusion to the copyrights issue. Also, this case was filed in California federal court, where it is tougher to prove copyright violations and which may be more favorable to MP3.com’s counter-arguments made in New York. Independent labels may have a tougher time proving copyright violations than the major labels did. In order to prove that MP3.com violated the copyrights for a specific title, a music label must provide copyright certificates dated before the title was misused to prove statutory damages. Otherwise, they have to prove actual damages, a much tougher hurdle. While major labels have whole departments devoted to filing certificates as soon as titles are issued, independent labels might not be as diligent about obtaining their copyrights. A company must have received a copyright certificate for a title before MP3.com went live on Jan. 12 to be able to sue for statutory damages, a much easier standard to meet than showing the copyright violations caused actual damages. As part of last week’s judgment, Universal acquired the right to purchase an undisclosed number of MP3.com shares, at a price higher than current levels, sometime in the future. Lawyers for Unity Entertainment were not available to comment. Related Articles from The Industry Standard: Universal Artists to Get a Piece of the Pie How Peer-to-Peer Is Turning the Music Industry on Its Ear MP3.com and Universal Settle But Don’t ‘Settle’ Copyright � 2000 The Industry Standard

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