Unauthorized MP3 download sites have been a thorn in the side of the music industry for many years, and a group of well-known labels are now targeting one of the biggest players in the market.
The coalition of record labels including Capitol Records, Sony Music, Warner Bros. Records and Universal Music Group have filed a lawsuit against MP3Skull, currently operating from the Tonga based .to domain name.
In the complaint filed at a Florida District Court (pdf) the studios describe MP3Skull as a business that’s designed and operated to promote copyright infringement on a commercial scale.
“MP3Skull is a website that is devoted to the infringement of copyrighted sound recordings on a massive scale, from which Defendants derive substantial revenue every year,” the complaint reads.
“At the core of MP3Skull is a database that, according to Defendants, contains millions of links to MP3 music files from around the Internet,” it adds.
MP3Skull has been around for several years and lists links to popular music tracks scattered around the web, free of charge. The operators of the site are not publicly known but the labels note that the Russian Monica Vasilenko was previously listed in the site’s Whois information.
Besides offering a comprehensive database of links to music tracks, the labels also accuse the site’s operators of actively promoting piracy through social media. Among other things, MP3Skull helped users to find pirated tracks after a takedown notice purge.
“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 labels write.
“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 from copyright organizations,” the add.
As a result of its allegedly infringing activities the site has gathered a broad audience of millions of users, resulting in significant losses from the record labels.
“As a direct result of Defendants’ widespread and brazen infringement of Plaintiffs’ copyrighted works, MP3Skull has become one of the most popular illicit music download sites on the Internet, attracting millions of users from the United States and generating significant revenue for Defendants.”
The complaint list more than 100 popular tracks that are freely available on MP3Skull. This means that the site’s operators face over $15 million in statutory damages.
Perhaps more importantly, given the anonymous nature of the site’s operators, is the broad preliminary injunction the record labels request.
Among other things, the proposed measures would prevent domain registrars, domain registries, hosting companies, advertisers and other third-party outfits from doing business with the site. If granted, the MP3Skull operators will have a hard time keeping the site afloat in its current form.