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It's funny.  Laugh. Sony The Courts

Copyright Troubles For Sony 276

Posted by kdawson
from the billion-here-billion-there dept.
ljaszcza writes "Daily Tech brings us a story about Sony's run-in with the Mexican police. (Billboard picked up the story as well.) It seems that they raided Sony's offices and seized 6,397 music CDs after a protest from the artist, Alejandro Fernandez. Fernandez had signed a seven-album deal with Sony Music; he completed that commitment and then left for Universal. During the time with Sony, he recorded other songs that did not make it into the agreed-upon seven albums. Sony Music took it upon themselves to collect that material and release it as an eighth album. Fernandez claims that he fulfilled his contract with Sony, and residual material belongs to him. Hmm. Precedent from the Jammie Thomas infringement and distribution case gives us $80K per song. Sony vs. Joel Tenenbaum gives $22.5K per song. So 6,397 CDs at an average of 8 songs/CD is 51,176 infringing songs, with (IMHO) intent to distribute. The damages to Fernandez should be $1,151,460,000 using the Tenenbaum precedent or $4,094,080,000 using the Thomas precedent. Seems very straightforward to me."
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Copyright Troubles For Sony

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  • If only... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by meerling (1487879) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @04:25AM (#29348697)
    You just know they'll find some way to weasel out of it...
  • by beerbear (1289124) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @04:30AM (#29348739)
    Mexico. United States. Not the same thing.
  • 51576? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Wildclaw (15718) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @04:44AM (#29348799)

    at an average of 8 songs/CD is 51,176 infringing songs,

    Sorry, but you fail. The big companies may be evil, but they aren't stupid. You may only count the 8 songs once. Scratch that. As those song were distributed as one unit, so you can make a good argument for a total count of 1 infringement.

    The reason for the $150,000 number in the law was exactly because it was aimed against large scale infringement like the one we are talking about here, but that has just made it even more effective (cruel and unjust) against small scale distributed infringment.

  • by Lonewolf666 (259450) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @04:50AM (#29348821)

    Where did you get the idea that the Mexican Police was bribed?

    There is nothing about that in TFA.
    Besides, raids on suspected copyright infringers are nothing new. There have been similar raids on The Pirate Bay, and Sony certainly operates on a comparable scale. That is not some school kid who shares a few albums on his computer.

    If the allegations are true, this is a case of commercial copyright infringement. A rather big fish, certainly bigger than Tenenbaum or Thomas.

  • by Instantlemming (816917) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @04:54AM (#29348847)
    Well, the US seems to think that their rules are to be applied globally, especially when it's about audio/video material...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @04:55AM (#29348851)

    Another point on the same topic. What the fuck does American precedent have to do with Mexico?

  • by meist3r (1061628) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @04:58AM (#29348857)
    Oh whoops
  • by Pitr (33016) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @05:01AM (#29348867)

    If you have a contract to produce a certain number of albums, but you also sign over ownership of your works during the contract, then the songs you produce during your contract even if they don't make it to an album belong to Sony (or whoever).

    IANAL and it depends on the fine print, but there's a good chance this guy is boned.

  • Re:51576? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lonewolf666 (259450) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @05:02AM (#29348877)

    Counting the 8 songs as 8 units seems appropriate, since that is the precedent from other file sharing cases. Jammie Thomas and Joel Tenenbaum did not get to argue that their shared songs should be counted as a smaller number of albums.

    Which leaves us with $80K per song (Thomas) times 8 or $22.5K per song (Tenenbaum) times 8. That is $640K or $180K. Looks like appropriate damages because this is large scale infringement as you wrote. In the Thomas and Tenenbaum cases I consider it excessive.

    This said, Mexican law counts here and the sums may be much lower. Unless Sony also distributed that CD in the US as well, then Fernandez might want to sue in the US too ;-)

  • Re:If only... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rolfwind (528248) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @05:04AM (#29348895)

    Why does the summary talk about "Precedent from the Jammie Thomas" when this case is in Mexico, while Jammie Thomas was in USA? Precedent's in USA aren't precedents everywhere (how many times this shit has to be told to americans?) and most of other countries actually have sane amount of compensations in copyright infringement cases, unlike USA.

    RIAA sister organizations around the world actually point to USA and screams "Be more like them!" when trying to roughshod legislation through... so it only seems fair.

  • Re:If only... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Another, completely (812244) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @05:32AM (#29349021)
    I think the point was that Sony corp. made an official public statement by about what they feel a stolen song is worth, and filed it in court. Even if the case verdict isn't a legal precedent, surely the researched market analysis filed in a foreign court can still be cited as a fair assessment that is endorsed by Sony. (Ok, IANAL, and the case in the U.S.A. was probably some legally-independent entity, completely separate from the Sony-owned company in this case, but it still has to count for something.)
  • by EdgeyEdgey (1172665) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @05:48AM (#29349101)
    Usually whoever pays the costs of the studio owns the mechanical copyright.
    Although what annoys me about that line of reasoning is that record companies reclaim the recording costs from the artists share of the profit, and so should forfeit any ownership.
  • Re:If only... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by siloko (1133863) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @05:52AM (#29349109)

    RIAA sister organizations around the world actually point to USA and screams "Be more like them!"

    They can scream all they like they are still only a lobby group and as yet don't have the power to pass legislation in there home countries so the GP is right in pointing out the difference between US law and that in other countries. Suffice to say this may change in due course when Corporatism becomes so embedded globally that industry pressure groups are the dudes signing off on legislation . . . ho hum . . .

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @06:16AM (#29349213)

    Sony are clearly in the wrong here however. Unless the contracts says music created during those recording sessions, not the songs that reached the final albums. As we haven't seen the contracts I wouldn't like to speculate.

    How can you clearly state the company is in the wrong when you have no information about the contract, as you admit yourself? Not only do you speculate, you state your made up opinion as matter of fact. Get off your Sony hating horse, just face up to it, their contracts are written by very highly paid experts. There is very likely to be a clause that allows them to do this.

  • Re:If only... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jcr (53032) <jcr.mac@com> on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @06:18AM (#29349227) Journal

    I'd like to see US law applied in the USA.

    -jcr

  • Re:If only... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by digitalunity (19107) <digitalunityNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @06:29AM (#29349297) Homepage

    I would really like to see what Sony would tell the Mexican court they feel copyright infringement should be worth. I doubt it will ever get that far though.

    I'm sure Sony's view on infringement damages is wildy different when they are the defendants.

  • by digitalunity (19107) <digitalunityNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @06:32AM (#29349313) Homepage

    If any Cd's were to be sold in the US, they are culpable here in the US.

  • by thisnamestoolong (1584383) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @06:33AM (#29349315)

    Did Sony provide facilities for recording the disputed songs? Still, what's in the contract is binding...

    No. Sony simply provides the artist a loan -- Sony pays all the cost of producing the album up front, but all of the costs must be recouped through album sales before the artist sees any income. Even after that, Sony will still take the vast majority of the profits (usually around 80% if you are lucky), which is why I have an aneurysm every time I hear the RIAA say they are doing something "for the artists".

    As ownership of the tracks -- it is all about what is in the contract. I have a sneaking suspicion that Sony lawyers have some sort of loophole written into the contract to protect them from liability in this matter, being the bottom-feeding vermin that they are.

  • Punishment (Score:5, Insightful)

    by whisper_jeff (680366) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @06:39AM (#29349355)
    While I think ljaszcza's claim of precedent is flimsy, at best, I do hope that Sony is absolutely smashed in court over this. This is _commercial_ piracy. This is piracy-for-profit. If non-commercial piracy between individuals carries penalties of tens-of-thousands of dollars per song then commercial piracy damn well carry a significantly heftier fine. After all, _THIS_ is the sort of thing that copyright law is intended to protect against - someone making money off of someone else's work without their permission. _THIS_ is what the law is supposed to protect against. With a hint of luck, the law will actually do something about it rather than look the other way.

    Wouldn't it be nice if the group involved in drafting ACTA were made aware of this. After all, I'm sure Sony has been involved in "suggesting" elements of the ACTA proposal so I'm sure any punishments they've suggested they would be comfortable with paying...
  • Re:If only... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by commodore64_love (1445365) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @06:49AM (#29349417) Journal

    Whatever.

    We all know that Sony will wiggle out of it. Just the same as when the U.S. sued the record-companies for "forming an illegal cartel" and price-fixing CDs from 1990 onward. Although the U.S. could have won that case, the record companies negotiated a deal where they simply returned ~$20 to everyone who asked for a refund. I bet Sony will also weasel a way such that it costs them virtually nothing.

    Corporations have power to make the government decide in their favor. I'm about to drive to JCPenney and demand to know "why did I never receive the 50 dollar mail-in rebate promised when I bought this appliance?" I already know the answer I will receive is "too bad, there's nothing we can do about it," and I'll never see that 50 dollars. Technically that's called illegal advertising of the price (they advertise 150 in the newspaper but I paid 200) and a criminal offense.

    In reality a call to the California AG won't get me anywhere because the AG is bought-and-paid-for by the corporate dollars who put him in office. JCPenney, Sony, et cetera get away with this stuff because THEY own the governments of New York, United States, Mexico, et cetera.

    Sony will weasel its way out just like it always does.

  • Re:If only... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dimeglio (456244) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @07:11AM (#29349527)

    The fact that the police raided Sony is enough to convince me that this will not be like the USA. At least Mexico gives a shit about their artists as individuals. The suit wasn't be a Mexican RIAA but by the artist himself.

  • by silanea (1241518) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @07:55AM (#29349879)
    The Big Corp in media always tell us how they fight non-profit copyright infringement to help the artists, and here Sony may have been caught infringing an artist's copyright with intent to profit from it. This makes Sony's action more wrong than that of Jammie Thomas et al. on two levels: legally (because it is for profit) and morally (they screwed over the person they claimed to protect and support).
  • Re:If only... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Prefader (1072814) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @08:27AM (#29350197)
    The artists already know that the record labels are scum. They just think the huge piles of money that get waved around in front of them are more important.
  • Re:If only... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by The Cisco Kid (31490) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @08:27AM (#29350201)
    Fsck that. I *never* consider the 'price after rebate' to be the price. I consider the 'amount of cash I have to hand to the clerk to carry it out of the store' to be the price of an item.

    Why should I loan some retailer $50 of my money, at 0% interest, and then have to jump through hoops to get it back (including sending original copies of documents (receipt) that if *they* lose or claim they never got, then I no longer have the original to prove I have a valid claim)? If the goddamn price is $150, then you accept my $150, and *you* (retailer) fark around getting the other $50 from the manufacturer. If I have to give you $200 to get it out of the store, then as far as I'm concerned, the price is $200.

    So "$175" (out the door, no hoop-jumping) is a better price than"$150 ('after $50 rebate')"

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @08:50AM (#29350461) Homepage

    We already did that sort of thing once.

    That's where the bulk of the Western United States comes from.

  • Re:If only... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @09:23AM (#29350889)

    You need a system like ours. Here, we pay for political ads with tax money. While this may seem a bit idiotic (hey, pay to get pestered with ads?), the alternative is politicians selling out to corporations for ad money.

    That, in turn, is tightly regulated here and mostly outright illegal with steep fines and a certain ejection from whatever seat you got elected into.

    Personally, I prefer to buy my politicians myself instead of privatizing that.

  • by ae1294 (1547521) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @03:43PM (#29356697) Journal

    You guys are missing a key point that shows that Sony is not going to be distorted but they aren't getting off the hook totally ether.

    From TFA:

    Sony announced it was creating an album of Fernandez' previously recorded music, which Universal protested.

    The lawyers over at Universal have already read the contract and while they might know they will loose at trial they are betting Sony will settle...

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