Music Industry Sues Chrysler, Mitsubishi Over In-Car Recording Devices

JEFF KOWALSKY/EPA /LANDOV  
A Jeep Grand Cherokee outside of a Chrysler's Assembly in Detroit, Michigan in April 2012.  

In the U.K, several trade orgs join forces in a dispute over private copying levies.

A dispute over private copying levies is heating up on both sides of the Atlantic. In the U.S., the Alliance Of Artists And Recording Companies (AARC) recently served legal papers to FIAT-owned car manufacturer Chrysler relating to its UConnect (previously MyGig) in-car entertainment platform, which is available in selected Chrysler, Jeep, Ram and Dodge models.

AARC has also filed a complaint against Mitsubishi Electric Automotive America regarding their own automobile-based audio recording devices. The class action suit follows AARC's landmark July lawsuit against Ford and General Motors and two electronics manufacturers, Denso and Clarion, for refusal to pay royalties or include copy protection systems on in-car music readers, which AARC states, violates the 1992 Audio Home Recording Act (AHRA) – a law intended to protect copyright holders from illegal sharing of their work without compensation.

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"While litigation is always a last resort, it is clear this lawsuit is the only way to protect our members' rights," says AARC executive director Linda R. Bocchi in a statement on the organization's website dated Nov. 14.

Speaking to Automotive News, Chrysler spokesman Mike Palese said the company "believes the lawsuit is without merit and intends to vigorously defend against it." Ford and General Motors are also understood to be challenging AARC's suits. 

Over in the U.K, a separate dispute relating to changes in copyright legislation has seen several trade associations join forces and apply for a judicial review of the so-called private copying exception, which was introduced by the British Government in October this year.

As recommended by the 2011 Hargreaves Review, the introduction of private copying exception finally made it legal for British consumers to make copies of music that they had purchased for personal use.  

However, according to UK Music, The Musicians Union (MU) and The British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA), who collectively applied for the judicial review, the new legislation fails to include fair compensation for musicians, composers and rights holders due to the absence of a compensatory mechanism. They argue that the law contravenes the EU's copyright directive, which dictates that where a member state provides a copyright exception, it must also provide "fair compensation" for rights holders.  

UK Music estimates that the exception will cost the industry £60 million ($90 million) in lost revenue -- a figure disputed by the British government, which believes that -- unlike other EU counties where levies are charged on MP3 players and music hardware -- no compensation is required.  

"The Government has made a serious error with regards to private copying. The legislative framework must guarantee musicians and composers are fairly compensated," said UK Music CEO Jo Dipple in a statement.

"The Government has not adequately justified why they are bringing forward an exception without compensation," added John Smith, general secretary of the Musicians Unions. "We believe there is strong evidence to suggest musicians will suffer harm under the proposal."

Following the application for judicial review, the British High Court will now examine the Government's decision to ensure it was made in a lawful way.


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