by Wendy Davis
A group of music publishers has sued Yahoo, Microsoft and RealNetworks for infringing copyright by offering the songs for on-demand streaming and downloads.
The publishers, who represent composers of 950 tracks including the gospel hit "Oh to be Kept by Jesus" and folk song "Wild Rose of the Mountain," allege that the Web companies never got all of the needed clearances before including the songs in their repertoires.
The plaintiffs argue that on-demand streaming services as well as subscription downloads that expire after a period of time require licenses from both the record labels and the publishers. Permanent downloads also require licenses, but stores like iTunes have negotiated comprehensive deals with the labels, while the Copyright Royalty Board has long set rates for publishers. That board recently set rates for on-demand streams and temporary downloads. Those rates went into effect on March 1, but it's not clear whether they apply to songs streamed in the past.
In their complaint, filed last month in the U.S. District Court in Tennessee, the publishers allege that the Web companies infringed on copyright each time they offered one of the publishers' songs, entitling them to damages ranging from $750 to $150,000 per instance.
Microsoft, Yahoo and RealNetworks declined to comment.