Estate of ‘Over the Rainbow’ composer is suing Apple and others


Judy Garland singing the song in Wizard of Oz.
Photo: Wikipedia CC

The son and estate of Broadway composer Harold Arlen is suing a number of tech companies, including Apple. Arlen composed numerous iconic songs during his career — most notably the Oscar-winning song “Over the Rainbow” from Wizard of Oz.

His estate is suing Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Pandora. They are accused of joining “with notorious music pirates to sell and stream thousands of pirated recordings.”

The lawsuit alleges that digital music stores and streaming services are selling more than 6,000 unauthorized recordings of Arlen’s music. Many of these are selling for far below the price of the authorized versions.

“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,” Arlen’s attorneys told Forbes. “Yet, this exact practice occurs every day in the digital music business where there is unlimited digital shelf space.”

Seeking maximum damages

The lawyers for the Arlen estate claim that online retailers have known about this for years. However, they have not taken action. “The more recordings and albums the online defendants make available in their stores and services, the better they are able to attract buyers and subscribers,” they argue.

They are asking for maximum damages to be meted out against the companies. ““Anything less … would encourage infringement, amount to a slap on the wrist, and reward multibillion and trillion dollar companies that rule the digital music markets for their willful infringement on a grand scale.”

This is far from the first time that streaming companies have been hit with charges concerning ownership of the music they distribute. It seems like this is a tricky problem to be solved. One way to resolve this involves using algorithms to spot unauthorized reproductions of music for sale or streaming. This is something that a growing number of companies are investing in.