In the latest sign of rising tensions in the entertainment industry over the issue of piracy, a group of major music companies sued Thomson Multimedia SA's Technicolor unit, accusing it of illegally copying compact discs, Thursday's Wall Street Journal reported.
The suit pits a handful of entertainment companies against one of their own -- a big-name Hollywood vendor that is known mostly for processing film prints and manufacturing videocassettes and DVDs. Concerns about piracy have been accelerating, with movie and music companies -- often units of the same media conglomerates -- complaining about unprecedented losses because of the rise of digital technologies that let consumers easily duplicate and transmit songs and films.
The suit against Technicolor, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles , centers on a more traditional form of piracy, physical duplication of CDs. The complaint accuses the company of "large-scale and continuing infringement of plaintiffs' copyrighted sound recordings." The suit says Technicolor violated an agreement by a predecessor company to allow recording-industry representatives to inspect procedures at certain CD-manufacturing operations. "It's unfortunate that we found piracy at Technicolor," said Matt Oppenheim, an official with the Recording Industry Association of America, which represents the music companies. But "just because it's Technicolor doesn't mean they get a free pass."
The suit seeks damages that could amount to as much as $150,000 per infringement, or song copied, but it isn't clear how many works ultimately could be involved in the suit. The suit names 164 specific songs, including works by Celine Dion and Lauryn Hill. The plaintiffs include music units of Sony Corp., Vivendi Universal SA, AOL Time Warner Inc. , Bertelsmann AG, Walt Disney Co . and EMI Group PLC.
In a statement, Technicolor said it "denies any allegations of willful copyright infringement" and plans to fight the claims. The company said it " employs safeguards to avoid piracy, including obtaining written assurances that its customers hold the rights necessary for materials to be replicated." A spokeswoman said Technicolor bought the CD-manufacturing operation after that operation had reached the agreement to allow inspections, and Technicolor "had no part in that settlement."
The suit comes as piracy is gaining more attention from film and music companies. In the music industry in particular, shipments dropped 10.3% last year, to 968.6 million units from 1.08 billion in 2000, a fall that the industry tied to the proliferation of online piracy and home CD-burning.