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Universal Music files lawsuit over albums sent to prison inmates

on January 08, 2015, 1:00pm

Universal Music Group has gained a reputation for going after copyright claims against everything from airline companies to 29-second YouTube videos of little children dancing. On Tuesday, UMG filed a new lawsuit directed at its easiest targets yet: prison inmates.

The complaint is against a handful of companies involved in a service called Access Securepak, a website that helps friends and loved ones compile care packages for inmates across the country. Specifically, UMG takes issue with the involvement of Ari’s Mixtapes, which supplies the care packages with mixtapes featuring Universal musicians including Eminem, The Jackson 5, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, LL Cool J, and others.

UMG contends that though the Securepak site says its service “was developed to eliminate contraband,” the use of and profit from the record company’s assets is “contraband personified.” The complaint defines mixtapes as “a form of recorded music in which DJs combine (or ‘mix’) tracks, often recorded by different artists, onto a single CD.” It further suggests that without proper authorization, mixtapes amount to “nothing more than collections of infringing, piratical compilations.”

Though UMG acknowledges the existence of authorized mixtape dealers, it alleges that Access Securepak is not one of them. What’s more, it claims the service uses mixtapes as “door opener to solicit customers,” often acting as a “loss leader to boost sales of their other goods and services,” leading the mixtapes to being a key aspect of the service. As a result, UMG is seeking the maximum damages of $150,000 for each work infringed upon, plus recompense for illegal earnings, punitive damages, and other penalties.


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