Record Labels Sue MP3Skull For Piracy

In the latest of a long string of moves by the entertainment industry against Web companies, the Recording Industry Association of America has sued MP3Skull for allegedly enabling consumers to download pirated music.

“MP3Skull’s database of MP3 links is vast and contains links to an enormous number of plaintiffs’ copyrighted works,” the record labels allege in a complaint filed on Friday in federal court in Miami. “With only a few keystrokes, users can quickly and easily find numerous links to full-length, infringing copies of legendary sound recordings like Michael Jackson’s 'Thriller,' Bruce Springsteen’s 'Born in the USA,' and Adele’s 'Rolling In The Deep,' to name just a few.”

The names of the site's operators are unknown, except for one person identified in court papers as Monica Vasilenko, who resides in Russia. The site itself carries a Tonga-based domain name, according to the complaint.

Lawsuits of this type date back to the appearance of Napster, the original poster-child for online copyright infringement. The RIAA and Motion Picture Association of America have brought similar actions against Web companies including Grokster, Isohunt, Limewire, Hotfile and Megaupload. Proceedings against Megaupload are still pending, but the others either lost or settled the litigation.

The complaint against MP3Skull includes an allegation that weren't present in many of the earlier cases -- namely, that the company used its social media to presence to help users find songs against the wishes of the copyright holder.

“MP3Skull’s official Twitter and Facebook pages contain several communications from defendants openly encouraging users to download obviously infringing files, links to which were removed following takedown requests from copyright owners,” the complaint alleges. “On several occasions, defendants outlined various workarounds that users could employ to download MP3 files because the site was 'forced' to 'remove a huge amount of our searches' following takedown requests.”

The RIAA alleges that MP3Skull's operators “profit handsomely” through “advertisements and otherwise.”

On Tuesday afternoon, the site's home page still links to various music files as well as a promotion for its toolbar -- which presumably is ad-supported.

The RIAA is seeking monetary damages from MP3Skull and also orders that would prohibit third parties -- advertisers as well as distributors of apps and toolbars -- from continuing to do business with the company. The record labels also are asking for a court order requiring domain name registries to disable MP3Skull's Web sites.

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