The National Music Publishers' Association (NMPA) and several songwriters have filed a class-action copyright-infringement suit against three peer-to-peer online music services, Billboard Bulletin rep

The National Music Publishers' Association (NMPA) and several songwriters have filed a class-action copyright-infringement suit against three peer-to-peer online music services, Billboard Bulletin reports. The suit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles, is against MusicCity, which operates the popular Morpheus service; Grokster.com; and Fast Track.

The suit mirrors one filed last month by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America, alleging that the sites lead to the unlawful exchange of music, movies, software, and images.

Mike Stoller, one of the plaintiff songwriters, says the suit is attempting to underscore the notion that commercial businesses have a legal obligation to compensate songwriters for the use of their works, regardless of the delivery method. "When millions of people use the Morpheus service, they are doing so not because they think the technology is 'cool,' " says Stoller. "They are using it because they can get our songs without paying for them." Stoller is part of the classic songwriting team Leiber and Stoller, whose credits include "Hound Dog," "Jailhouse Rock," and "Stand By Me."

Robin Gross, an intellectual-property lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), takes issue with the NMPA and RIAA's premise that MusicCity and the other services operate Napster-like operations. "There is no music service here," says Gross. She describes MusicCity's service as "individuals who are connecting directly together" without a centralized database. "It's very different from Napster, which had the ability to monitor, control, and police what people were trading on its system."

EFF, a San Francisco-based civil-liberties group, is defending MusicCity in the case brought by the RIAA.