Universal Music Group is going after group of companies that produce ready-made care packages that families can buy and send to prison inmates, saying that those packages contain illegal copies of its music that are being sold without permission, and for far less than market price. In a new federal lawsuit filed by Universal yesterday in California, the music giant accuses companies like the Centric Group, its affiliate the Keefe Commissary Network, and others of flat out stealing the work of its artists and attempting to skirt copyright issues by calling the finished product a mixtape.
"Such so-called 'mixtapes,' unless authorized by the copyright owner or owner of corresponding state law rights, are nothing more than collections of infringing, piratical compilations of copyrighted or otherwise legally protected sound recordings and copyrighted musical compositions," says the complaint, which was spotted by The Hollywood Reporter.
Mixes that include Public Enemy songs
What's on the tapes? "Performances by such legendary artists as James Brown, Eminem, the Jackson Five, LL Cool J, Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Wonder, among many others," Universal says. Also included are acts like Public Enemy, 2Pac, and Dr. Dre, which the record companies say are "just a small sampling" of the music it found on the tapes.
In many cases, it's not the care packages companies producing these mixtapes, the lawsuit claims. Instead, it's allegedly the work of a Pennsylvania-based company called Ari's Mixtapes, a company that sells most of its "official mixtapes" for $5.99 through its site. Universal says these are added to the packages to serve as an incentive to selling the other items like snacks and electronics, where the care package companies make their real money. Speaking of which, Universal is asking for damages of $150,000 per infringed song, making that one expensive mixtape.