MySpace co-founder out $6.6M in infringement suit

It wasn’t exactly what the plaintiffs wanted, but a California federal court refused to increase the amount of what a federal judge said would be “a ridiculous, disproportionate damage award.” Nevertheless, the music rights of several publishers were strengthened by a $6.6 million outcome in an intellectual property lawsuit against one of the founders of the social networking website MySpace.

The music publishers spent three years in a court fight over copyright infringement, claiming that LiveUniverse illegally posted online lyrics to the songs the publisher’s owned. LiveUniverse was made up of three lyric publication sites, all of which folded during the course of litigation.

The founder of LiveUniverse, one of the co-founders of MySpace, hired three different legal teams to represent him in the case, two of which quit over “personality” differences and nonpayment. Apparently, the founder tried to mount his own defense with a variety of countercharges including statute of limitations and fair use.

The defendant is probably best known for filing a lawsuit over the $580 million sale of MySpace to News Corp. which he felt was “undersold.” The co-founder also unsuccessfully attempted to buy The Wall Street Journal, a News Corp. company.

A judge ordered a preliminary injunction after deciding the LiveUniverse founder had willfully posted lyrics. The MySpace co-founder refused to comply. The court, in turn, awarded the music publishers ownership of the LiveUniverse websites.

The music group then asked the California-based federal court to award damages equal to $100,000 for more than 500 infringed songs, a figure supposedly based on profits made by LiveUniverse. The judge initially wanted to scale the awards according to the licensing fees LiveUniverse would have paid to post lyrics legally.

In the end, the court felt a $12,500 per song judgment was adequate after learning LiveUniverse was unprofitable. LiveUniverse’s founder, who was slapped with three contempt orders during the litigation, is also responsible for paying the plaintiff’s legal bill.

The $6.6 million judgment made recently was a final ruling in the copyright infringement case.

Source: hollywoodreporter.com, “Music Publishers Win $6.6 Million in Song Lyrics Copyright Case,” Eriq Gardner, Oct. 11, 2012