Supremes allow music labels to face cartel charges

The US Supreme Court has cleared the way for a price fixing suit against the major music labels over online music to go ahead.

The lawsuit claims that the “Big Four” music labels Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group, Sony, and EMI hatched out a plan to fix pricing for online music downloads at $0.70 cents a song.

The music industry appealed a federal appeals court decision that the case could proceed to discovery and the Supremes said they were washing their hair, so the decision stands.

Kevin Starr brought the case against the record labels claiming that they conspired to set a minimum price of $0.70 per song then they began selling digital music downloads through subscription services like pressplay and MusicNet.

It has taken a long time for Starr to get the case to court. It was first presented in 2005. However, in 2008, a federal judge threw out the lawsuit saying that the plaintiffs had not presented enough facts for the claim to be considered at the summary judgement phrase or a trial.

The appeals court later reversed that decision, finding that the plaintiffs had presented enough information to move forward with the case. The record companies then appealed.

What happens next is that lawyers must still assemble their materials and evidence to enable the case to proceed further. It is fairly likely that the recording industry will do what it can to prevent as much material reaching the public eye as possible.

If the recording industry did fix prices, then it could make a huge mess for the online digital sales. A judge and jury might wonder what the price should have been before the cartel fixed it. They would then demand that the difference be refunded to the customer.