The works of most every major recording artist are now legally available for download. That is, however, except for those of The Beatles. Thus, it came as quite a surprise when, on October 30, the music sharing website began offering 25-cent downloads of Beatles music.

The record label EMI, which owns the rights to Beatles recordings, quickly brought suit against BlueBeat alleging copyright infringement; and last Thursday a federal judge ordered BlueBeat to stop selling songs by the Beatles and other artists.

In issuing the order, U.S. District Judge John F. Walter dismissed the arguments of Hank Risan, the owner of BlueBeat and several other companies named as defendants in the lawsuit. Risan’s defense was that he owned the music he was selling because he had re-recorded new versions of the songs using a process he called “psycho-acoustic simulation.”

Most copyright experts regard this defense as absurd. Ben Shaffer, of the Copyrights and Campaigns blog, has noted that BlueBeat’s defense is based on copyright law allowing musicians to produce cover versions of songs. However, “[i]t does not permit a company to re-record a recording by some new technical means–even a ‘psycho-acoustic simulation’ device–and then sell the ‘new’ recordings,” he wrote.

Risan is facing up to one million dollars in damages under the Copyright Act.

Chad Burchard

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4 Responses to Federal Judge Orders to Stop Selling Beatles Songs

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