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Website to pay $950K for posting Beatles hits

Mon, 03/28/2011 - 11:05am
ANTHONY McCARTNEY - AP Entertainment Writer - Associated Press

A website that sold Beatles songs online for 25 cents apiece before they became legally available has agreed to pay record companies nearly $1 million to settle a federal lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton Tucker signed off on the settlement between BlueBeat.com and music companies EMI Group PLC, Capitol Records and Virgin Records America on Friday. The judge ruled in December that the site violated the music labels' copyrights and presented unfair competition.

A trial to determine how much BlueBeat owed the companies was scheduled to begin Tuesday in Santa Ana, California.

BlueBeat streamed and sold music by the Fab Four and other top-name acts, including Coldplay and Lily Allen, for several days before music companies sued to shut it down in November 2009. By then, the site had already distributed more than 67,000 songs by The Beatles.

The posting of Beatles songs came shortly after the release of the group's re-mastered albums and a pricey box set. A year later, Apple Inc. announced with great fanfare that it was selling Beatles music on its popular music service iTunes.

Within the first week, more than 2 million Beatles songs were purchased online for $1.29 apiece and 450,000 albums were sold.

BlueBeat had denied wrongdoing, claiming owner Hank Risan had pioneered a method called "psycho-acoustic simulation" that resulted in unique versions of copyrighted music.

The judge rejected his arguments and explanations of his technique in her December ruling, noting that Risan's recordings were based on copies of CDs that he had purchased.

Attorneys for the music companies and BlueBeat did not immediately return phone messages seeking comment Monday.

The settlement does not cover the music labels' attorney fees, and it requires Risan and BlueBeat to permanently avoid infringing on any music copyrights.

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