credits: the verge

The man, the estate of Harold Arlen, responsible for composing Over the Rainbow and numerous other classic songs, is suing Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Pandora for selling unauthorized recordings of some of the songwriter’s most famous music. The companies are involved in a “massive music piracy operation” involving over 6,000 pirated recordings according to the lawsuit, noted by forbes.

Some of the most famous soundtracks of the 20th Century for Hollywood films and Broadway musicals alike, are composed by Arlen. In 1939, Over the Rainbow, which he composed alongside the lyricist E. Y. Harburg for the film The Wizard of Oz, won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. He also collaborated with songwriters such as Ira Gershwin andJohnny Mercer, also composed music for the 1954 version of A Star is Born. Arlen passed away in 1986.

It is possible to see some of the unauthorized versions cited in the lawsuit in online stores. Two copies of the album Once Again, for example, by Ethel Ennis are available to stream on Apple Music, but the cover of one has been edited to remove the RCA Victor logo. We can see on another case that on Amazon, two digital copies of an original cast recording of the musical Jamaica being sold and they have a clear price difference.

What appears to be an authorized version from the Masterworks Broadway label, the full album is available  at $9.99 for download, and individual tracks for $1.29, while the one unauthorized copy from Soundtrack Classics lists them for $3.99, and $0.99 respectively.

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The RCA Victor logo, Like the Ethel Ennis album, on the unauthorized cover also appears to have been edited out. These online retailers are selling and streaming these recordings with the full knowledge that they’re unauthorized, as claimed by the lawsuit. According to the lawsuit,

“it is hard to imagine that a person walking into Tower Records, off the street, with arms full of CD’s and vinyl records and claiming to be the record label for Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald, could succeed in having that store sell their copies directly next to the same albums released by legendary record labels, Capitol, RCA, and Columbia, and at a lower price.”

The filing, across its 148 pages, in total makes 216 claims. It also claims numerous distributors provided music catalogs containing the unauthorized recordings, along with the big tech companies. It demands an end to the infringement in addition to the payment of damages and attorneys’ fees.



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