Judge stops Web sites selling Beatles songs

EMI claimed sites were engaging in music piracy

A federal judge has temporarily blocked two music-sharing Web sites from selling songs by The Beatles and other artists for 25 cents apiece.

U.S. District Judge John F. Walter on Thursday blocked the sites BlueBeat.com and Basebeat.com and owner Hank Risan from selling copyrighted songs by the Beatles and others. Music company EMI Group filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday seeking an injunction against the sites, claiming they were engaging in music piracy.

EMI claims the Web sites have infringed on its copyrights to numerous artists' songs, including The Beach Boys, Coldplay and Lily Allen. Its complaint states BlueBeat.com and Basebeat.com were offering the recently released digitally remasters of The Beatles catalog for 25 cents per song; the box set of 13 albums retails for $250.

The Beatles songs have never been legally offered for sale online through sites such iTunes or other music sharing services.

The Web site's attorney opposed EMI's injunction request, saying the sites are selling an altered version of the songs.

In an e-mail earlier this month to the Recording Industry Association of America's general counsel, Risan described the songs as a "psycho-acoustic simulation" rather than the original, copyrighted works.

Asked to explain the concept, Risan replied, "Psychoacoustic simulations are my synthetic creation of that series of sounds which best expresses the way I believe a particular melody should be heard as a live performance."

Neither site was online Friday, so it wasn't clear what Risan meant.

The e-mail exchange is included as part of Risan's filings opposing the restraining order.

The label did not return an e-mail message seeking comment. A phone message left for Risan's attorney on Friday was not returned.

Walter has scheduled a court hearing for Nov. 20 on whether to keep the injunction in place.

EMI is seeking a permanent injunction and a fine against Risan of up to $150,000 per song that was downloaded.