U.S. judge reduces copyright verdict against ex-MP3tunes chief

(Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Monday reduced a $48 million (29.57 million pounds) copyright infringement verdict against the former chief executive of defunct online music storage firm MP3tunes, the latest turn in long running court battles between the music industry and online content providers.

U.S. District Judge William Pauley III in Manhattan cut a punitive damages award to $750,000 from $7.5 million, and additional aspects of the ruling could reduce the total amount further, according to an attorney for ex-MP3tunes Chief Executive Officer Michael Robertson.

The judge gave both sides until Oct. 17 to submit proposals for a final judgement.

EMI Group Ltd contended in a 2007 lawsuit that the MP3tunes website and a related one called Sideload.com enabled the infringement of copyrights in sound recordings, musical compositions and cover art.

In the years since the lawsuit was filed, EMI was split up, with Vivendi SA's Universal Music Group buying its recording music business and a consortium led by Sony Corp acquiring its publishing arm in 2012.

Earlier this year a Manhattan jury found MP3tunes and Robertson liable for copyright infringement and awarded $48.1 million in damages.

After the reduction in punitive damages on Monday, the music companies can either accept the decision or embark on a new trial on punitive damages, the ruling said.

Other legal findings made by Pauley will make the total verdict "closer to $10 million than $40 million," said Robertson's attorney Ira Sacks. Attorneys for the music companies could not immediately be reached for comment.

Founded in 2005 initially as a website selling independent musicians' songs, San Diego-based MP3tunes came to be known for its so-called cloud music service that allowed users to store music in online lockers. The lawsuit was regarded in some circles as a barometer for how courts might view cloud-based music storage services.

"While the world has moved beyond the free-MP3-download craze, the parties in this case have not," Pauley wrote.

The case is Capital Records Inc et al v. MP3tunes LLC et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 07-09931.


(Reporting by Dan Levine in San Francisco; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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