November 21, 2002 4:12 PM PST
RIAA: Madster flouting court order
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) asked a Chicago federal court on Wednesday to hold bankrupt Madster--formerly known as Aimster--and its founder Johnny Deep in contempt of court. Deep has made no effort to comply with a court order issued last month that required the company to block trading of music belonging to the major record labels, the trade association said.
"We regret having to take this step, but Mr. Deep has given us no other option," Matt Oppenheim, senior vice president of the RIAA, said in a statement. "He is fully capable of complying with the order and has apparently decided to flout the court's authority."
Deep could not immediately be reached for comment.
Madster's legal travails have gone on since early last year, although the service's popularity has long since been eclipsed by networks such as Kazaa and Morpheus. Madster and Deep have consistently lost arguments in court, and recent rulings against the company have made their way into the record labels' legal suits against newer, more popular services.
The battle currently resembles the now-defunct Napster's late days of operation, after the company had already been told to block many trades and was fighting with labels over the efficacy of song-filtering techniques. That struggle ultimately led Napster to shut down its file-trading service altogether.
In a recent filing with the court, Deep called it "impractical" to block large numbers of copyright songs from being traded through the Madster service. The RIAA responded in its motion for contempt that the option was to simply close the service down.
The company could "turn (the service) off easily in several ways, including simply turning off the power to the servers that (Madster) operates," the labels' trade association wrote in its legal brief. "If the system was turned off, infringement on the (Madster) system necessarily would cease."
The RIAA asked that a compliance officer be appointed to ensure the song-blocking was achieved in whatever form necessary and that Deep be fined $1,500 a day until song-trading stops. Madster has claimed to have about 9,000 subscribers paying $4.95 a month, resulting in revenue of about $45,000 a month, or about $1,500 a day, the group said.
Although the case remains important for its legal precedent-setting effect, more eyes have turned to a Los Angeles courtroom, where a pair of hearings over the next few weeks may have more real effect on the file-swapping world.
On Monday, a Los Angeles federal judge will hear arguments as to whether the RIAA and movie studios can sue Kazaa parent Sharman Networks, which is incorporated in the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu, in United States court. On Dec. 2, the same court will hear arguments as to whether the labels' and movie studios' suit against Morpheus parent Streamcast Networks and rival Grokster should be decided immediately, before going to a full trial.