US singer-songwriter Aimee Mann has won the first round in a lawsuit against digital music company MediaNet, who serve as a white label distributor of 22 million songs to over 40 music services, including Yahoo Music, Playlist.com, eBay, and various internet radio services.
Back in July, Mann brought a suit to MediaNet, alleging the company had continued to distribute her music after the end-date of the two parties’ contract––providing her compositions as part of their service despite having no right or license to do so, while inducing their partners to do the same.
MediaNet labeled Mann’s claim “without merit,” saying they possessed license to distribute Mann’s music, however a California federal judge disagrees. Support for MediaNet’s claim came in the form of a clause that gave them ongoing statutory license even after the agreement’s termination.
But Mann’s attorneys claim the clause applied only to works “first made available” during the license term, and US District Judge George King concurs. Mann’s three-year contract signed with MediaNet in 2003 served only to cover songs made within the contract’s tenure, not before or after.
Mann’s contact also had a provision for automatic two-year extensions unless the contract is terminated by either party. Mann claims to have sent a termination notice in 2005, of which MediaNet doubted the validity, however Mann’s layers claim such a provision was unenforceable.
Mann’s lawyers cited a New York law, which MediaNet countered by saying that particular law couldn’t apply to an intellectual property license and was intended for consumer protection. Judge King disagreed, saying MediaNet’s services placed it “squarely within the scope” of the NY law.
The judge also upheld claims of secondary infringement through MediaNet’s partners, writing, “Because MediaNet’s service functions (and MediaNet profits) by distributing music to its business partners…Mann has done enough to set forth plausible claims for secondary infringement.”
MediaNet’s motion to dismiss a rescission claim was granted, with the judge giving Mann 21 days to amend her lawsuit, suggesting the singer may not be entitled to rescission of her contract if monetary damages can suffice. The judge said a breach of contract claim may be an alternative.
(Via The Hollywood Reporter)