Apple Faces New Litigation for Running a ‘Massive Music Piracy Operation’

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Apple has been named in another sweeping copyright-infringement lawsuit, which alleges that the California tech company is running a “massive music piracy operation” on iTunes.

The trustee of Harold Arlen (a prominent 20th century composer widely known for crafting “Over the Rainbow”), SA Music (a publishing company founded by Harold Arlen’s son), Julia Riva (the granddaughter and representative of “That’s Amore” writer Harry Warren), and the Ray Henderson Music Company (representing the namesake songwriter), among others, submitted the complaint to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Besides Apple, the case’s defendants include a two-employee Amersham, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom, company called Pickwick Group, which, according to its website, specializes in selling and distributing popular (older) music. Pickwick Australia is, presumably, one of Pickwick Group’s entities in Australia, while the final defendant, named Mastercorp Pty Ltd, is linked to “Pickwick Record Label’s” YouTube page.

As was also the case in a similar lawsuit filed earlier this month (against Apple and another UK company that appears to reissue old music on the side), once again by the estates of Arlen, Warren, and Henderson, the plaintiffs claim that the “Defendants have failed to obtain any license that would authorize them to reproduce, distribute, or sell the recordings” that they allege are being infringed upon and illegally profited from.

The filing indicates that Pickwick has provided Apple with “over 2,000 pirated recordings,” which are being sold in the iTunes store presently, albeit with slightly modified cover art.

After calling the alleged piracy “flagrant,” the plaintiffs state that the case’s defendants “are nothing more than modern tape pirates.”

Until late 2011, UK sound recordings were protected by copyright for 50 years after their initial date of publication; EU Directive 2011/77 EU, however, extended the copyright-protection period to 70 years after the initial publication—still far less than the protection period in the United States.

Thus, while the music of Harold Arlen and the other plaintiffs is part of the UK public domain, the legal right of UK entities to distribute it to companies like Apple, as well as the matter of mechanical royalties, are less clear.

At the time of this writing, Apple hadn’t commented publicly on this newest copyright-infringement lawsuit.

5 Responses

  1. Eilo

    Why should Apple reply, they wouldn’t lower themselves to knowingly participate in something illegal. Let Pickwick deal with it, they’re obviously at fault here. Next!

    • deepfreeze

      Yeah you’r right E., back in the day I worked for Pickwick, they were a major player in the indy distribution arena, a very large outfit at the time..they would not move in this kind of fashion without having the goods

  2. Anonymous

    is apple recording the songs? no. they are distributing cover songs of ‘public domain’ songs. if so, isn’t the onus on the artists who recorded the track not getting the proper license? And/or if they recorded it before the change, wouldn’t they be grandfathered in or some exeption?

    i’m a fan of the song earning for decades after released. at the same time i do also feel it’s a cash grab by the grandchildren.

    they are going after apple cuz it’s one stop shop, instead of hundreds of individual artists (who don’t have deep pockets, likely, from their jazzy cover version of Over the Rainbow)

  3. DC

    Is this about the difference between US and ROW copyright term for sound recordings. If so the 70 year rule that applies outside the US means most of the recordings in question are in the PD but are still owned and protected in the US where the term is 95 years. Is the issue that Apple is paying the non US labels ( like Pickwick) for US sales, streams etc? If so I would have thought the owners of the US master rights would have been involved in this lawsuit