Sony Sues United for Making Unauthorized Copies of Songs and Videos…

Now Sony is suing United Airlines.

On Tuesday Sony Music filed a lawsuit against United Airlines, Inflight Productions, and Rightscom for playing unauthorized copies of songs on airplanes.

 The Hollywood Reporter says the defendants were carrying out unauthorized duplication of songs and music videos. The copied media was put on airplane servers and made available to customers on-demand.

Rights management consultancy Rightscom contacted Sony after being hired by United Airlines and Inflight Productions. They let Sony know what was going on, saying United would have to contact Sony’s sub-labels regarding licensing. “Discussions commenced, but the lawsuit states that during this time, United Airlines continued to offer its customers access to copyrighted music.

Sony wants to collect the profits made from these copies and is also seeking statutory damages. In addition, Sony has filed two claims against United for infringing common law and unfair competition. The common law claim comes because the airline also used songs recorded prior to 1972. This is tricky because prior to 1972 recorded music was not covered by copyright laws.

Smart move United.

Image by Chris Guillebeau, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

16 Responses

  1. Me

    How much money does United make from in-flight music streams? I can’t imagine there’s much profit in that.

    • Faza (TCM)

      How much profit do they make per passenger for flying them from point A to point B?

      The reason that United play music on board isn’t that it makes them money. It’s because passengers might otherwise jump to a competitor who does.

      As with many things music, it’s important not to lose sight that if a business is using music and gets sued over that, it’s probably because they consider using music good business.

  2. Bandit

    If United agrees to licensing it will take years for SONY to recoup the legal fees of the lawsuit. Moral of the story: lawyers win

  3. Jeff Stwart

    Faza…re your comment…

    ”The reason that United play music on board isn’t that it makes them money. It’s because passengers might otherwise jump to a competitor who does.”

    Do you seriously believe that anyone in the history of passenger flight has decided on which airline to fly based on the type of music or its availability on board!!

    Things like cost, safety, flight frequency, comfort, might weigh a little more heavily than music…….especially as most people board a plane with more music loaded onto the various devices they are carrying than the planes systems could supply.

    • Faza (TCM)

      All fine and dandy, except most of the things you list are hardly a discriminator these days. And in case you were wondering, music is actually on your list under comfort (or, more accurately, experience – together with things such as in-flight meals and movies).

      In short, if you have two similar competitors, you’re not going to have many “serious” concerns to base your choice upon. At this point in time, things like “this one has music and the other one doesn’t” can actually clinch the deal (‘coz the other time the batteries ran out and you had sod all to do during the whole flight except listening to your fellow passengers – less than fun most times).

      You seem to have missed the point of my comment: the only reason United play music at all is that they consider it good for business (and this isn’t due to how much money they make on playing it, ‘coz they don’t). If it wasn’t, why bother doing it?

    • you'refly

      @Faza (TCM) is correct. Otherwise i wouldn’t have a job.

      Anyone who flies outside of the U.S. on any majour int’l carrier would notice there’s a lot of music and film/tv onboard the airlines. (Everything is aimed at the pleasure/comfourt of the business and 1st class traveller. They don’t make squat from our measly economy class fares.)

  4. Jughead

    An infringer can either be disgorged of profits, or hit with statutory damages. Plus, Sony can recover its attorney’s fees.

  5. airhead

    Where it gets tricky is that United is also a retailer, selling Sony digital music and videos through Mileage Plus.

  6. hippydog

    quote “the record labels say they were contacted by a representative from Rightscom. This consultant is said to have “candidly acknowledged” that musical works were being reproduced and that “it is going to be necessary for Inflight to contact the labels individually to put the necessary licenses in place.” The tip-off appears to have triggered a deeper investigation into in-flight music and now a lawsuit.”

    OOPS! Someone at Righstscom is gonna get fired 😉 LOL

  7. Jacob Chang

    The US Film and music industry faces strong competition from both European and Asian markets, which are gaining ground in the global music arena. Furthermore, the availability of online content has led to increasing piracy of content, which negatively impacts the revenues of record labels, don’t you think?

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