A potentially big music copyrights lawsuit is on its way – the estate of Harold Arlen and his son are suing big tech companies and record labels such as Apple, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft for what they call “massive piracy operations.” Arlen was the composer of such classics as “Over the Rainbow”, “Get Happy”, and “It’s Only A Paper Moon.”
In their lawsuit filed beginning of May in a California Central District Court in Los Angeles Arlen’s son and his estate say that, “they have found over 6,000 unauthorized recordings of his compositions for sale and available for streaming — a situation that they call ‘massive music piracy operations in the digital music stores and streaming services of some of the largest tech companies in the world.'”
Digitalmusicnews.com points out that the 148-page lawsuit concentrates on ‘pirates’ that, “have flooded digital music stories and streaming music services with ‘unauthorized’ copies of the late composer’s works.” The plaintiffs cite the example of a 1964 Ethel Ennis recording of Arlen’s “For Every Man, There’s A Woman.” Amazon currently offers two copies: “a legitimate recording for $1.29, and a cheaper, pirated copy.”
As npr.org notes, there has been a split on what reissues of musical recordings can be considered legal or illegal since copyrights laws differ – “in the U.S., the copyright for recordings made after 1923 and before 1972 is generally 95 years; copyright for published recordings lasts 70 years in both the U.K. and European Union. After that time, they enter the public domain.”
Npr.org adds that, “because so little metadata is generally accessible to consumers,” it is hard for ordinary consumers to know the difference between what is an authorized reissue and what is not, particularly when there is a visible difference in the price of the recordings. Still, it will be very interesting to see the outcome of this lawsuit.