Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Pandora are all named in a lawsuit filed by the estate of Harold Arlen—the composer of “Over the Rainbow” and numerous classic songs—for selling “unauthorized recordings” of some of his most famous works. According to Forbes, the lawsuit says the companies are involved in a “massive music piracy operation” involving 6,000 pirated recordings.
“Over the Rainbow,” written with E. Y. Harburg for “The Wizard of Oz,” won an Academy Award in 1939 for Best Original Song. Arlen also composed music for the 1954 version of “A Star is Born” and collaborated with such songwriters as Ira Gershwin and Johnny Mercer.
The lawsuit claims that the online retailers are selling and streaming recordings with full knowledge that they are, in fact, unauthorized. According to court papers obtained by The Verge, “It is hard to imagine that a person walking into Tower Records, off the street, with arms full of CDs and vinyl records and claiming to be the record label for Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, could succeed in having that store sell their copies directly next to the same albums released by legendary record labels, Capitol, RCA and Columbia, and at a lower price.”
On Apple Music, for example, there are two copies of the album “Once Again…” by Ethel Ennis, available for streaming—one with the cover edited to remove the RCA Victor logo, The Verge reports. Two digital copies of an original cast recording of the musical “Jamaica” are being sold on Amazon, with two different prices: What appears to be an authorized version from the Masterworks Broadway label prices the full album at $9.99 for download, and individual tracks for $1.29, while a seemingly unauthorized copy from Soundtrack Classics lists them for $3.99, and $0.99 respectively.
In all, the lawsuit makes 216 claims across its 148 pages, according to The Verge. Along with the tech companies, it also claims numerous distributors provided music catalogs containing the unauthorized recordings. It demands an end to the infringement in addition to damages and attorneys’ fees.