‘Over the Rainbow’ composer’s estate sues Apple and others over ‘pirated’ music sales

“Apple and a large number of tech companies have become the subject of a new music lawsuit, with the estate of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ track ‘Over the Rainbow’ composer Harold Arlen accusing the firms of creating a ‘music piracy operation’ that distributes unlicensed and unauthorized versions of copyrighted songs,” Malcolm Owen reports for AppleInsider.

“Filed in the US District Court of the Central District of California on May 9, the lawsuit from SA Music and Harold Arlen Trust has a lengthy list of defendants, headed up by Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Pandora, followed by a large number of distributors and studios,” Owen reports. “The accusation stems from a practice of failing to account for the ownership of music being submitted to music services, which due to a lack of proper clearance and licensing, is deemed to consist of ‘pirated recordings’ by the plaintiff. The failure to obtain a license to authorize the reproduction, distribution, sale, or stream of the recordings is said to be an infringement on the composer’s estate’s rights. ”

“For example, the 1964 Ethel Ennis recording of ‘For Every Man There’s a Woman’ is sold by RCA Sony for $1.29 while the pirated Stardust Records version, complete with doctored album art, sells for $0.89,” Owen reports. “Benny Goodman’s 1955 album ‘Get Happy’ sold by Capitol Records goes for $7.99 through Google Play and Amazon, while Pickwick Group Limited’s unauthorized copy sells for $6.99.”

Read more, including a copy of the lawsuit, in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Music clearance and licensing is obviously a convoluted morass. There has to be a better way to properly identify genuine recordings from pirated versions and remove/bar them from digital stores and subscription services.


  1. I love the way Apple’s name always pops up first when it comes to some negative story. There were other companies involved in this so-called music “piracy” case. Why not just use the group term of digital music sellers. You would think by now Apple would have a standardized procedure for weeding out pirated music after all the years they’ve been selling music on the iTunes Music store.

    1. Considering the source article is from appleinsider.com, you may just have to take up the article naming issue with them. It’s possible that as a Apple news site they didn’t want to give free advertisement on the site via naming the competition.

  2. How long does a copyright last? IIRC correctly a COPyright can be renewed one time, but at some point the copyright is lost.

    Looks to me like a lawyer looking for a quick buck.

    1. Generally speaking, it isn’t completely safe to reproduce copyrighted material until 70 years after the death of the creator. The requirement to renew after 28 years only applied to US works created before 1964. “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” is public domain because it was written before 1923 (1911). Otherwise, the copyright would expire after 148 years in 2059! Irving Berlin died at 101 in 1989. Harold Arlen died in 1986.

      1. Because “Over the Rainbow” was written before 1978 and its copyright was renewed after 28 years, the applicable rule is apparently “95 years from the date of creation,” which would be 2033. Note,these aren’t pirated performances or bootleg recordings. Even if all the proper permissions are in place for the performance, royalties still are due to the composer (Arlen) and writer (Yip Harburg). When the copyright to “Happy Birthday” was still in force, the composer’s licensing agent, ASCAP, used to send enforcers to restaurants where the staff sang to customers.

  3. Yes, there is a better way and it’s been in use since commercial records were invented and piracy immediately started. It’s called notifying the retailer with a stop order on the bootleg items and a request for an accounting of all sales for a subsequent legal action against the bootlegger not the retailer unless they ignore the order and continue to sell the pirated items. Record stores were never required to research music rights, it’s always been up to the owner of those rights to monitor retail outlets. This is why smaller record companies were always the victim of bootleggers when they managed to have a hit in the vinyl era, you had to hire someone to go all over the country to check out stores. Bigger record companies had these people on staff. In some ways it’s easier now as piracy can be discovered thru a Google search.

    These estate lawyers and the families they represent tend to be techno-idiots who don’t understand how anything on a computer works. If they used some of the logic they use now back in the vinyl era, they would have been suing car companies for providing a means for people to drive to a store to purchase a bootleg.

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