Music companies saddle CEO with $41 million piracy bill

The former chief executive of defunct online music storage firm MP3tunes was personally ordered to pay an estimated $41 million after being found liable for infringing copyrights owned by record companies and music publishers once part of EMI.

A lawyer for EMI, Luke Platzer, estimated after the verdict was read that it added up to roughly $41 million. The verdict included $7.5 million in punitive damages.

Robertson and the bankrupt company was found guilty by a jury on various copyright infringement claims.

A lawyer for Robertson said he planned to appeal, saying that many of the claims were not sustainable.

MP3tunes was founded in 2005 and was one of the first cloud based music services that allowed users to store music in online lockers. EMI claimed that the MP3tunes website and a related one called enabled piracy.

This particular case was considered a barometer for how courts might look at cloud-based music storage services in the future. It looks like the future is bleak.

In the trial, Robertson’s lawyers contended MP3tunes had shut out users who abused the locker system and that many of the songs had been made available online free by EMI as a promotion.

A federal judge’s ruling against in 2000 led to a shutdown of the service and more than $160 million in estimated payouts by the company to the five major record labels and music publishers. was sold a year later to Vivendi Universal for about $372 million, with $120 million going to Robertson’s family trust, he testified at trial. The website is today owned by CBS.