Universal Music Group has filed lawsuits against online video sharing sites Grouper and Bolt.com for allowing users to swap pirated versions of its artists’ videos. The company is seeking damages up to as much as $150,000 for each incident of copyright infringement plus costs. It estimated that thousands of music videos were being viewed on both sites, to their benefit alone.
“Grouper and Bolt… cannot reasonably expect to build their business on the backs of our content and the hard work of our artists and songwriters without permission and without compensating the content creators,” a Universal spokesperson said. Grouper and Bolt officials were not immediately available for comment.
The suits accuse Grouper Network Inc., which Sony Pictures Entertainment agreed to buy in August, and privately held Bolt.com of actively participating in the infringement by copying, reformatting, distributing and creating derivative works from Universal’s artists.
Meanwhile, the music industry has launched a fresh wave of 8,000 lawsuits against alleged file-sharers around the world, escalating its drive to stamp out online piracy and encourage the use of legal download services.
The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), which represents the world’s music companies, said the new cases were brought in 17 countries, including the first ones ever in Brazil, Mexico and Poland.
The trade group said more than 1 billion music tracks were illegally downloaded last year in Brazil, the largest market in Latin America. Record company revenue has nearly halved in Brazil since 2000, IFPI said.
IFPI has said some 20 billion songs were illegally downloaded worldwide last year.
The industry has now filed about 18,000 lawsuits in the United States, the largest market for music sales, and 13,000 in the rest of the world. The legal proceedings involve both criminal and civil suits and are aimed at “uploaders” — people who put copyrighted songs onto Internet file-sharing networks to offer to music fans without permission.
The IFPI said many of those targeted for legal action were parents whose children had been illegally file-sharing. Others facing lawsuits included a laboratory assistant in Finland and a German parson.
The group added that more than 2,300 people had already settled their case for illegally file-sharing copyrighted material with an average payout of 2,420 euros ($3,034).
John Kennedy, chairman and chief executive of IFPI, said he was encouraged by the group’s progress, although he said the fight against online piracy would be an ongoing battle. “It’s not getting easier but we are encouraged enough by the results to keep on going,” he said. “It will never go away completely.”
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