The estate of Harold Arlen, the man responsible for composing Over the Rainbow and numerous other classic songs, is suing Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Pandora for selling unauthorized recordings of some of the songwriter’s most famous music. Forbes notes that the lawsuit says the companies are involved in a “massive music piracy operation” involving over 6,000 pirated recordings.
Arlen composed some of the most famous soundtracks of the 20th Century for Hollywood films and Broadway musicals alike. Over the Rainbow, which he composed alongside the lyricist E. Y. Harburg for the film 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 songwriters such as Ira Gershwin andJohnny Mercer. Arlen passed away in 1986.
It’s possible to see some of the unauthorized versions cited in the lawsuit in online stores. For example, there are two copies of the album Once Again… by Ethel Ennis available to stream on Apple Music, but the cover of one has been edited to remove the RCA Victor logo.
In another case, we can see a clear price difference between two digital copies of an original cast recording of the musical Jamaica being sold on Amazon. 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. Like the Ethel Ennis album, the RCA Victor logo on the unauthorized cover also appears to have been edited out.
The lawsuit claims that these online retailers are selling and streaming these recordings with the full knowledge that they’re unauthorized. As the lawsuit says, “it is hard to imagine that a person walking into Tower Records, off the street, with arms full of CD’s 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.”
In total, the filing makes 216 claims across its 148 pages. Along with the big tech companies, it also claims numerous distributors provided music catalogs containing the unauthorized recordings. It demands an end to the infringement in addition to the payment of damages and attorneys’ fees.