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Internet Archive must face record label copyright claims, judge rules

Post Time:2024-05-17 Source:Reuters Author:Blake Brittain Views:

May 16 (Reuters) - A California federal court has denied the Internet Archive's bid to dismiss part of a copyright case brought by a group of major record labels including Universal Music Group (UMG.AS) and Sony Music (6758.T) over its program for digitizing and streaming vintage vinyl records.

U.S. District Judge Maxine Chesney on Wednesday rejected the Archive's argument that the labels' claims over thousands of records were time barred, but said the nonprofit could raise its defense again later in the case.

Representatives for the labels and the Archive did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the decision on Thursday.

The San Francisco-based Internet Archive digitally archives websites, books, audio recordings and other materials. It compares itself to a library and says its mission is to "provide universal access to all knowledge." The Archive is facing a separate federal lawsuit from leading book publishers who say its digital book-lending program violates their copyrights.

The nonprofit's "Great 78 Project" encourages donations of fragile 78-rpm records for the group to digitize to "ensure the survival of these cultural materials for future generations to study and enjoy," according to its website.

The labels' lawsuit, originally filed in Manhattan federal court before being moved to San Francisco, said the project functions as an "illegal record store" for songs by musicians including Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis and Billie Holiday. An amended complaint filed in March named more than 4,000 sound-recording copyrights that the Archive allegedly infringed.

The Archive asked the court to dismiss part of the case in January. It argued that a "significant bulk" of the allegations were barred by a three-year statute of limitations based on a cease-and-desist letter sent in July 2020, three years and one month before the August 2023 court complaint.

Chesney said on Wednesday that the time bar did not apply because the letter "does not identify any specific sound recording, let alone any of the sound recordings at Issue" in the case.