Warner Music Slaps Songbeat With Lawsuit

Who didn’t see this one coming? When we first reviewed Songbeat, a simple desktop application for playing and discovering music on the net, we liked the product but were interested in what the music industry would have to say about it. The updated version released last December was even better, but we were still critical of its chances for survival.

Songbeat essentially allows you to scour the web for MP3s using integrated search for Seeqpod, Project Playlist, SpoolFM, iASK and more, stream tracks and even download them. You can find and listen to as many music tracks as you wish, but you can only download 25 of them. An upgrade would cost you 19.99 Euros (or $ 29.9), for which you’d get an unlimited amount of downloads.

When we checked with the German company behind the application about possible copyright infringement at the time, their response was:

The downloading of music is not fundamentally illegal. However, it lies in the hands of the user to discern whether or not they have the right to download the particular music file at hand.

The music labels didn’t agree, obviously.

In an unsurprising move, an alliance of European labels have decided to sue the company, according to co-founder Marco Rydmann. So far, Warner Music is the only one who has made a move by enacting a restraining order against Songbeat in agreement with the BVMI (the Association of German Music industry who has all major labels amongst its members), but because of a protective letter filed in all major courts in Germany the restraining order did not go through. The first hearing in the case will take place next week on Wednesday in a Hamburg court, and the general expectation is that more music labels will join in for what BVMI intends to put forward as an “example lawsuit”.

Philip Eggersgluess, founder and CEO of Songbeat, is confident about the case and claims the service is perfectly legal in Germany. He says: “The music industry’s action shows, once again, that instead of looking for dialogue, they seek confrontation. Our intention, though, is to be a partner, not an enemy. We are offering dialogue: open talks aimed at finding a solution together”.

TechCrunch has written quite a bit about the highs and lows of online music distribution and sales, and how the industry is responding to the changes that will inevitably continue to turn their business model upside down. Read some of our thoughts here and here.