Sony BMG Spain today (May 9) withdrew 7,561 songs from the country's oldest music Web site, weblisten.com, after a Madrid court found the service guilty of unfair competition and infringement of intel

Sony BMG Spain today (May 9) withdrew 7,561 songs from the country's oldest music Web site, weblisten.com, after a Madrid court found the service guilty of unfair competition and infringement of intellectual property rights.

The ruling was made last November, but Sony BMG could not enact it until a court-appointed computer science expert had prepared the technology arrangements.

Madrid-based Weblisten appealed the ruling and the case is expected to be re-heard soon. Weblisten legal adviser Roberto Sanchez said the service was confident of victory. "Sony's songs account for less than 2% of our offer, and we are not worried by its action," Sanchez says.

Weblisten, which claims a catalog of more than 300,000 songs, has been in litigation with Spanish music industry executives almost since its creation in 1997. Today's action is the result of a lawsuit brought against Weblisten in 2001 by Sony Music Entertainment Spain. Separate cases were also launched by the Spanish offices of BMG, Universal Music and EMI.

A pending case with BMG -- now merged with Sony Music -- still remains to be clarified. The litigation of the other majors continues its course.

The ruling sets a precedent in Spain. It is the first time a major label has withdrawn its repertoire from a leading music portal. A Sony BMG Spain legal and business affairs department spokesman says "this sets jurisprudence in the area of illegal music downloading in Spain. Weblisten is selling recordings online without paying the appropriate rights. This ruling was absolutely necessary in Spain".

Sanchez argues that Weblisten deposits a sum of money every month with a notary. The labels, however, do not recognize the process as legal.

In 1998, Weblisten reached an accord with labels' rights body Agedi through artists' association AIE; neither body subsequently recognized the pact. A separate accord with authors' rights society SGAE is still in effect, although Weblisten and SGAE are in separate litigation over related matters.

"We have deals with more than 200 labels, and only four have started legal proceedings," says Sanchez. "Weblisten operates in several European countries, [including] Germany and the Netherlands, where we have no problems."

Until recently, music piracy in Spain concerned mainly street sales of illegal physical CDs. However, illicit downloading is on the increase. The government has promised updated intellectual property legislation before the end of its legislature in three years.

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