Pundits Smirk at the Strangest Excuse for Stealing Beatles Songs

A music site sells the Fab Four's music without rights, but it's the company's defense that has pundits in stitches

This article is from the archive of our partner .

EMI Records is suing the music site BlueBeat.com for selling Beatles songs at 25 cents a pop, despite not having rights to the music. It's not the theft that's caught the eye of tech and legal pundits, but BlueBeat's outlandish defense. Hank Risan of the site's backing company, Media Rights Technologies, said his company owned the rights to the music because he "authored the sound recordings that are being used by psycho-acoustic simulation," creating an original product. Observers almost universally agree the defense is bound to be shot down in court--unless judges want to alter the landscape of copyright forever.

  • Bizarre  Nate Anderson of Ars Technica says Risan's legal defense is absurd. "For 25¢ a track—we speculated that an entertainingly weird legal theory was at the root of this behavior. We just had no idea how weird it was."
  • Crazy Defense Could Change Everything  Eliot Van Buskirk of Wired's Epicenter blog says "Risan faces perhaps millions of dollars in damages under the Copyright Act. And copyright attorneys said his defense is laughable and carries no weight." But he says that "if successful, however, it would turn copyright on its head, leaving musical rightsholders defenseless against wanton infringement."
  • What Were They Thinking?  Mike Masnick of TechDirt. "It's not clear what the folks at Bluebeat were thinking -- other than that they were about to get a ton of publicity in the form of lawsuits, but it's hard to see what good that publicity is if the site is forced out of business."
  • BlueBeat Is No Novice  At Paid Content, Staci Kramer says the piracy is even more surprising coming from a well-established company that sued some big players — Apple and Microsoft among them — just a few years ago. "BlueBeat.com is no youngster; the digital radio service was launched as a subscription streaming service in 2004 by Media Rights Technologies (MRT). That would be the same MRT that issued cease-and-desist letters to Apple, Adobe, RealNetworks and Microsoft in 2007 because the companies weren’t using its protection technology. Just guessing they could be on the flip side this time."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.