Aimster gets full Napster treatment

Aimster saw its legal battles grow as music publishers, songwriters and major movie studios sued the file-swapping service, which piggybacks on America Online Inc.'s popular instant-messaging software, in two courts last week.

The lawsuits did not come to light until Tuesday, when the National Music Publishers' Association announced its legal challenge in a press release. Songwriters and music publishers filed a class-action suit Thursday against the Cohoes, New York-based company in Manhattan federal court, following a similar suit they filed against music-swapping brethren Napster.

As expected, Columbia TriStar Pictures Inc., The Walt Disney Co., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc., Paramount Pictures Corp., Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. and Universal City Studios Inc. sued Aimster in a Los Angeles federal court Wednesday, according to the Motion Picture Association. Warner Bros. Inc. sued Aimster in a separate action.

The music publishers and songwriters charge that the operators of Aimster have promoted the service as an even more efficient, peer-to-peer music sharing service than Napster. In a press release, the group notes that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Napster infringes on music copyrights, forcing the company to block unauthorized music on its service. The group suing Aimster is composed of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who co-wrote the classic songs "Hound Dog" and "Stand by Me;" Irwin Z. Robinson; the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization; Criterion Music; and Famous Music.

Aimster also is being sued by the Recording Industry Association of America and AOL Time Warner, which charges Aimster is illegally using AOL's registered AIM trademark for its instant-messenger service.

Aimster's software piggybacks on instant-messaging applications to allow users to trade files with other people on their so-called buddy lists. The company sued the RIAA first, requesting a declaratory judgment on its legality from a court in Albany, New York.

Aimster spokesman Johnny Deep maintains that it does not have the right or responsibility to monitor or control the files or information exchanged among its users. He has said that the name of the file-swapping service refers to a nickname for the woman on the site's homepage.

On June 22, Aimster won a minor victory when U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Kahn denied the record labels' request to transfer the case to Manhattan or try their own suit there. "Defendants include some of the largest corporations in the country while plaintiff is a recently formed computer software company, the very existence of which is endangered by this lawsuit," the judge noted in his order.

Deep noted that several of the record companies and motion-picture companies are owned by the same parent, including AOL Time Warner.

This story courtesy of The Industry Standard http://www.thestandard.com.au

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Ronna Abramson

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