Published Dec 08, 2009When it comes to copyright-related law suits, it's usually the major labels taking to the plaintiff's seat to make examples of illegal downloaders, demanding exorbitant sums of money. It's unique, then, to see the estate of legendary jazz trumpeter/vocalist Chet Baker take on the Canadian Recording Industry Association as the lead plaintiff in a massive class-action lawsuit. What's more, the lawsuit could end up costing the major labels over $6 billion, making it perhaps the largest copyright infringement case in Canadian history.
According to a report from Michael Geist, the Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, printed in the Toronto Star [via The Daily Swarm], Baker's estate slapped a lawsuit on Warner Music Canada, Sony BMG Music Canada, EMI Music Canada and Universal Music Canada back in October of 2008.
The case revolves around a longstanding practice in the Canadian music industry that the lawsuit describes as "exploit now, pay later, if at all." Since the '80s, the record labels on trial have been releasing compilation CDs without getting the correct copyright licenses for tracks. Instead, those songs go on a "pending list," which signifies that the tracks have not been paid for yet.
Now that this practice is encroaching on the three-decade mark, the "pending list" contains over 300,000 songs that have never been paid for, including obviously copyrighted tracks by everyone from Bruce Springsteen and Beyoncé to Sloan and Sarah McLachlan. The case is demanding $20,000 per infringement, which is where the $6 billion amount comes in.
The case is still ongoing, but as of right now, the CRIA has admitted to owing at least $50 million in unpaid royalties.
UPDATE: Due to what appears to be a math error in the original Star article, the number there is put as $60 billion, not $6 billion.