Who’s the real thieves in the music business? Hint: it’s not the pirates.

By their own admission they owe musicians some $50 million in unpaid royalties but they could end up paying out $6 billion.

Who is this ‘they’?

Well how about the music industry for starters, but more specifically in relation to one of the largest class action lawsuits for copyright infringement in Canadian history it turns out to be the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA). Now before you start to think that the companies involved through the CRIA are a bunch of small-time Canuck companies let’s clarify the participants by pointing to: Warner Music Canada, Sony BMG Music Canada, EMI Music Canada, and Universal Music Canada.

This all stems from the recording companies using musical works to create compilation CD or live recording without obtaining the necessary copyright licenses, or as described in the lawsuit – “exploit now, pay if at all”. Instead the names of the songs are placed on a “pending list” to signify that approval and payment are pending. This list which is ongoing dates back to the 1980’s and now contains over 300,000 songs from not just obscure artists but well known one’s like Beyonce and Bruce Springsteen.

Even though record companies owe over $50 million (Universal alone owes $30 million) the attitude about paying the artists is cavalier to say the least.

David Basskin, the President and CEO of the Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency Ltd., notes in his affidavit that “the record labels have devoted insufficient resources to identifying and paying the owners of musical works on the Pending Lists.” Basskin adds that some labels believe addressing the issue would be “an unproductive use of their time.”

Source: Michael Geist

The class action suit that has been launched is seeking the option of statutory damages for each infringement. With the amount of $20,000 per infringement the liability of CRIA could easily exceed $6 billion.

And they say the downloaders are the crooks eh.