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Second Circuit revives antitrust case against music industry

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] on Wednesday reinstated [opinion, PDF] an antitrust lawsuit that accuses major record labels of price-fixing nearly 80 percent of US digital music sales. In overturning a lower court decision to dismiss the case, the appeals court found that the defendants, music industry giants including Sony, Time Warner, EMI, Universal, and Virgin Records, may have been in violation of the Sherman Act [text], which established the country's antitrust laws. The court held, "that Plaintiffs-Appellants' Second Consolidated Amended Complaint ("SCAC") contains 'enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest that an agreement was made,' and therefore states a claim." The court did not rule on the merits of the case, which was remanded to the district court for further proceedings.

The case combined lawsuits filed in 2005 and 2006 by people who had downloaded music from the Internet. Wednesday's ruling is the latest in an ongoing conflict between the music industry and consumers who download music online. In July, a federal judge ruled that Boston University graduate student Joel Tenenbaum [defense website] was liable [JURIST report] for illegally downloading music, fining him $675,000. In the only other file-sharing case to go to trial, Jammie Thomas-Rasset was found liable and fined $1.92 million [JURIST report] in June. These suits may be the last to be brought to trial, as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) [organization website] decided in 2008 to discontinue pursuing [JURIST report] court cases against those accused of illegal file-sharing.

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