Apple iTunes Accused of Running a ‘Massive Piracy Operation’ In Major Songwriter Lawsuit

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The representatives and music companies of several high-profile composers and songwriters have filed a sizable copyright-infringement lawsuit against Apple. 

The plaintiffs’ legal team argues that Apple has long sold bootleg music through the iTunes Store, alongside (and often at a lower price than) the official, legitimate versions of the songs. Additionally, it’s claimed that this practice constitutes a “massive music piracy operation.” Moreover, the plaintiffs also named Adasam Limited, a UK company, as a defendant in the lawsuit. It’s alleged that the brand, “which has no web presence, is selling [bootlegged] recordings by virtually every well-known recording artist from the 1920s through the 1960s” to Apple.

An array of allegedly unlicensed “Greatest Hits” albums (comprising thousands of songs, organized by year) were cited in the filing; “Apple and Adasam have gone year-by-year and released multiple compilations per year comprised of pirated copies of virtually every prominent recording from the 1940s through the early 1960s.” 

And as the plaintiff composers’ estates/music companies lay claim to some of the most successful songs of the 1900s (many of which remain popular today), it’s alleged that they’re suffering financially because of the ostensibly illegal reproductions.

While Adasam’s role and potential liability in the matter seems clear (the company has in fact provided many songs to Apple), the plaintiffs’ claim that “Apple did not perform any investigation or due diligence” to assure that Adasam possessed the authorization to sell copyrighted recordings internationally. Further, the filing states that Apple has known about Adasam’s alleged copyright infringement for multiple years, and has nevertheless continued to strike deals with the company.

As mentioned in this piece and the court filing, Adasam has an extremely limited online presence. Per public records, Adasam Limited was incorporated in February 2001 and, as of March 2018, possessed assets worth approximately $192,700 (£155,500). It also bears mentioning that the company is registered at the same location as an industrial cleaning company, which, according to public records once again, is owned by the same individual. 

The three composers/songwriters represented in the lawsuit are: Harold Arlen (who composed songs for The Wizard of Oz, including “Over the Rainbow”), Ray Henderson (who wrote “Bye Bye Blackbird” and “I’m Sitting on Top of the World”), and Harry Warren (who composed more than 800 songs, including “That’s Amore”). 

6 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    Harold Arlen. The man’s last name is Arlen.

    • Dylan Smith

      Good catch, text has been updated. Thank you.

  2. John Simson

    Because the UK had a 50 year copyright term for sound recordings until 2012, all sound recordings released prior to 1962 are in the public domain in the UK and anyone can reissue them. (The term of protection was extended in 2012 to 70 years to prevent the Beatles initial recordings, as well as Cliff Richards and others, to enter the public domain). The term of protection in the United States is far longer and more complicated; but record labels claims that these recordings are still protected, some until 2067, have been upheld by U.S. Courts.

    While the recordings are in the public domain and free to reissue in the UK, the copyrights in the underlying compositions are still protected in most cases. This means that mechanical royalties on sales of these recordings must be paid through to the publishers and composers. If Apple iTunes is selling these recordings they pay the record label who is then entrusted to pay the publisher. It is an interesting question whether Apple can be held responsible if the publisher is not being paid by the label.

  3. Blobbo

    Kill Pirates and ripoff MBA parasites. Torture them and harm them.

  4. Eilo

    Bogus claim against Apple. Fiduciary duty by publishers to notify Apple was obviously not carried out in a reasonable timeline, if Apple did indeed, do this.