Universal starts legal action with MySpace over videos

LONDON - Universal Music Group has launched a legal action against News Corp's MySpace social networking site about what it describes as illegally encouraging the site's 'users to share music and music videos on the site without permission'.

The lawsuit has been filed in US District Court, with Universal Music alleging that MySpace shields itself from liability by requiring users to "grant the website a license to publish the content they upload to the site".

In filing the suit, the music company said that users "have no such authority over works they don't own".

In the complaint, Universal Music, a unit of Paris-based Vivendi, singles out features on the website that enable users to save copies of videos to their profile pages or share them with others on the site.

A spokesperson for MySpace responded to the charges: "MySpace provides an extraordinary promotion platform for artists -- from major labels to independent acts -- while respecting their copyrights.

"We have been keeping Universal Music Group closely apprised of our industry-leading efforts to protect creators' rights, and it's unfortunate they decided to file this unnecessary and meritless litigation. We provide users with tools to share their own work -- we do not induce, encourage, or condone copyright violation in any way."

The move by Universal follows EMI bosses on Thursday saying that they are still holding out from signing a deal with Google that would let its music videos be shown legally on YouTube. Alain Levy, chief executive of EMI, has said that he feels there are copyright issues. EMI chairman Eric Nicoli is quoted in the paper as saying that just because the other major record labels had signed up to showing their content on Google "doesn't make it right".

A spokesman for EMI told Brand Republic: "We are in discussions with YouTube but still feel there are copyright issues that need to be resolved. Our job is to protect the rights of our artists and songwriters."

In February, Universal Music signed a deal with the social networking site to offer thousands of music videos as part of an on-demand streaming service.

Universal Music, whose artists include U2, Scissor Sisters and Mariah Carey, is currently involved in a legal action videosharing sites Bolt.com and Grouper.com. Universal said it plans to seek damages of $150,000 for each incident of copyright infringement on each site involving its artists, as well as damages.

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