Record labels sue Internet Archive over Copyright Infringement for digitized music collection

Major record labels, including Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment, have taken legal action against the nonprofit Internet Archive for copyright infringement.

The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Manhattan, claims that the Archive’s “Great 78 Project” acts like an unauthorized record store, offering digitized music from older records by artists like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, and Billie Holiday.

The labels have identified 2,749 instances where the Archive allegedly violated sound-recording copyrights. The potential damages from this case could reach up to $412 million.

The Internet Archive, headquartered in San Francisco, digitally preserves websites, books, audio recordings, and more, aiming to provide widespread access to information. However, they have not yet responded to the lawsuit.

This is not the Archive’s first legal challenge. They’re already facing another lawsuit from prominent book publishers over their digital-book lending program, which the publishers argue infringes on their copyrights. The Archive intends to appeal a previous decision that favored the publishers.

The “Great 78 Project” requests donations of 78-rpm records, a common format from the early 1900s to the 1950s, to digitize and safeguard cultural materials for future generations. The collection on their website boasts over 400,000 recordings.

The labels’ lawsuit highlights copyrighted tracks in the project, such as Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas,” Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven,” and Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).” The lawsuit points out that these recordings are already available on authorized streaming platforms and are not at risk of being lost or forgotten.

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