Sony Music Seeks to Keep Case Against In-Flight Music Provider Aloft

Sony Music and its subsidiary music labels continue their protest of United Airlines’ alleged failure to have appropriate licenses for the copyrighted music being made available via in-flight entertainment systems.
According to the complaint, United and its music vendors duplicated sound recordings and music videos, installed the copies on servers on board aircraft, and transmitted the performances to passengers without paying the appropriate licensing fees.
The recordings include works by artists like Michael Jackson, Carrie Underwood, Aretha Franklin, and Justin Timberlake.
The defendants sought to have the case dismissed.
In June, the plaintiffs made a brief in opposition to the motion for dismissal, asserting that United’s vendor, Inflight Dublin, attempts to characterize itself as a passive vendor whose activities are licensed and entirely confined to Ireland. Neither assertion is true. First, when Inflight Dublin claims its activities are “licensed,” it is referring to a license from an Irish rights society, Phonographic Performance Ireland (“PPI”). While that license permits it to reproduce certain recordings in Ireland, it does not authorize reproductions that will be used outside of Ireland. To the contrary, the license expressly prohibits Inflight Dublin from providing copies for use outside of Ireland. The license also expressly states that it does not authorize any public performances of the duplicated recordings.
In fact, say the plaintiffs, Inflight is an international operation.
Plaintiffs say that:
Inflight Dublin created an outlaw cottage industry that provided unauthorized content from Ireland to clients with the intent that it would be used in the United States and elsewhere around the world…. By operating without authorization and thus skirting rightful payment to copyright owners in the United States, Inflight Dublin has been able to price its services low, making these services attractive to the world’s airlines, and thus earning significant revenue from United and other airline clients. In sum, Inflight Dublin deliberately built a profitable business based on facilitating the infringement of Plaintiffs’ copyrighted sound recordings in the United States and in New York on a massive scale.


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