Apple hit with lawsuit by songwriter heirs who allege ‘massive music piracy operation’

The heirs of American songwriters Harold Arlen, Ray Henderson, and Harry Warren are suing Apple alongside a UK-based music company for allegedly running a “massive music piracy operation”.

Harold Arlen wrote Over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz and many other seminal works, while Ray Henderson wrote or co-wrote songs such as Bye Bye Blackbird, Has Anybody Seen My Girl?

Harry Warren wrote songs such as There Will Never Be Another You, and The More I See You.

Works written by these three songwriters have been recorded by legendary artists such as Lena Horne (pictured), Art Tatum, Billie Holliday, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald, Ethel Waters, Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Ray Charles and many others.

According to the claim, filed in a California court on Monday (March 30), “these monumental works of art are, quite literally, national treasures”.

The plaintiffs – SA Music LLC and William Kolbert as Trustee of the Harold Harlen Trust, the Ray Henderson Music Co; the  Four Jays Music Company and Julia Riva – accuse Apple, and UK-based music company Adasam Limited of copyright infringement.

As first reported by Law360, they claim that they have identified over 80 recordings for which Apple allegedly failed to obtain licenses, before selling them on iTunes.

They also allege that iTunes is selling bootlegged versions of songs reproduced by Adasam.

Adasam, alleges the lawsuit, “has no web presence” and “is selling recordings by virtually every well-known recording artist from the 1920s through the 1960s, including Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Mel Torme, Ray Charles, Tony Bennett, and Judy Garland”.

Adds the claim: “The scope and flagrant nature of Defendants’ piracy cannot be understated. It is obvious that the recordings listed in Exhibits B-D are pirated by virtue of the scope of the Adasam catalog, and the continued distribution of legitimate versions of the recordings by the rightful record label owners on iTunes”.

The lawsuit cites various examples of recordings that are currently being sold and streamed legitimately alongside what it alleges are bootlegged versions also available to download via the iTunes store.

One such example is a Lena Horne recording of Harold Arlen’s Stormy Weather for the movie of the same name, recorded in 1942 and released by RCA Victor as part of Moanin’ Low – Torch Songs by Lena Horne.

That version of the recording is still being streamed, including on the album Lena Horne’s Greatest Hits, and is being sold on iTunes for $1.29.

At the same time, the suit claims that Apple is selling “the Adasam bootleg version for $.99 as part of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Pop & Soul Sisters, Vol. 4“.

“Defendants in this case have engaged in massive music piracy operation for the purpose of generating profits from their sales of pirated recordings and by other means.”

Adds the claim: “The infringing conduct of all of the Defendants is willful. Adasam knows that it does not have authority to reproduce, distribute or for importation of the recordings of the Subject Compositions listed on Exhibits B-D, or to authorize these actions by Apple. Adasam has pirated thousands of recordings and sold them in the United States through iTunes.

“Similarly, Apple did not perform any investigation or due diligence to confirm that Adasam had authorization to reproduce, distribute, make, or authorize the making of digital phonorecord deliveries, or the importation, of the recordings of the Subject Compositions identified on Exhibits B-D.”

“Defendants in this case have engaged in massive music piracy operation for the purpose of generating profits from their sales of pirated recordings and by other means.”

The claim goes on to suggest that Apple “has had knowledge of the infringing conduct of Adasam for years”, and that the company was “identified as an infringer” in a previous lawsuit brought against Apple.

The suit demands a jury trial and “damages, including Defendants’ profits, or a separate award of statutory damages in amounts to be determined by the jury for all infringements involved in the action”.

You can read the full complaint here.Music Business Worldwide

Related Posts