EMI sues MP3tunes' Robertson


EMI Group companies sued online music industry executive Michael Robertson for copyright infringement on Friday, some seven years after his former company paid recording firms more than $100 million to settle a similar case.

Several EMI-owned labels and publishers sued Robertson and MP3tunes LLC, which runs www.sideload.com and www.mp3tunes.com, for willful infringement of copyright over the Internet, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

Robertson said in a phone interview from San Diego he had not seen the lawsuit but the case appeared to be "retaliatory" as MP3tunes had sued EMI in San Diego in September over a take-down notice the record company sent for Sideload.com, a search engine for digital music files.

Robertson, 40, is chief executive of MP3tunes and was the founder of MP3.com, which was sued in 2000 by several major recording companies, including some of the plaintiffs in this case, according to the complaint.

MP3.com was later bought by Vivendi's Universal Music Group for $385 million. Universal at the time was the only record company of the five major labels that had sued it to refuse to settle its copyright infringement suit with MP3.com.

"These guys rush off to court and tell the court that I am terrible and then they end up buying my company," Robertson said. "It is really a shame because instead of using these technologies to improve their business they make an enemy of every technology company out there."

In 2003, CNET Networks Inc bought MP3.com.

EMI's complaint says MP3tunes' two Web sites offer an integrated music service, allowing users to listen to music on their computers, obtain copies of songs online, transfer music to their computers and portable devices, and distribute it to others.

Sideload.com streams music to users, enabling them to listen to a wide array of music on demand, the complaint said.

Robertson sold MP3.com and "ultimately started this one as a vehicle to achieve a comparable infringing purpose," the complaint read. "MP3tunes, however, does not own the music it exploits; nor does MP3tunes have any legal right or authority to use or exploit that music."