United Sued for Pirating Music for its Inflight Entertainment System

Sony has filed suit:

According to a complaint filed in New York federal court, the defendants are duplicating sound recordings and music videos, installing the allegedly infringed copies to servers located on board aircraft and then transmitting performances to passengers. All without paying any baggage fees.

While a bit sensational, and a fluid area of law, it appears that is outsourcing relevant parts of the management of its inflight entertainment technology — such as obtaining content for its systems. The article claims a rights management company acknowledged to Sony that unlicensed content was being used, and was attempting to negotiate to make good on this. The lawsuit then may be a negotiating tactic.

United is the bigger pocket here than the entertainment company they’re outsourcing to, though I’d guess there’s some sort of indemnification in the agreement between the two.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction against United’s continuing to use their owned music in its inflight entertainment, as well as a portion of profits and additional damages.

The profits piece is interesting, while some customers might choose United for channel 9 inflight air traffic control where available I’d doubt that many are choosing it for the airline’s particular inflight music offerings!

(HT: Jim J.)


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. This is just stupid. United will just drop the music altogether. Sony gains more than United does by having the music on the plane, albeit very little. But there are certainly no damages here. It’s the lowest fidelity you can imagine, and there is no way for the consumer to record it.

    United has XM on its planes with LiveTV and that’s licensed, so I’m sure that’s not what this is about. So they’ll just cut off the music on those planes left that haven’t upgraded.

  2. … if I were a Sony competitor, I would immediately contact United and offer them all my music for free provided they just add a page listing all the songs/albums – and where it can be purchased by passengers – in the magazine!

    This is just so typical of this stone age musical industry behavior – instead of using this to their advantage (i.e. free ads to millions of pax who fly) they gonna sue over license that is just so easily to avoid these by, for example, streaming.

  3. Seeking an injunction is justifiable, but seeking profits doesn’t seem justifiable. I don’t think anyone flies United because they have they have great in flight music…

  4. I love this part of their allegation:

    …All without paying any baggage fees.

    Everyone has the Explorer card, so no baggage fees! 🙂

  5. I’ve actually found some good, weird stuff on United audio (Cozy Powell and The Move come to mind), but I’ll never forgive them for slipping on my headphones in heavy turbulence and hearing The Big Bopper.

  6. That’s funny. And Sony doesn’t sue Google/YouTube for uploading content and enabling the downloading of every video behind copyright holders backs through Mozilla? I see nothing in Google/YouTube’s farce terms of service that says “All Videos Will be downloaded behind your backs and can be uploaded on all YouTube-like sites for the same thing”. All in seconds.

    Oh wait. An upload is a copy of the original file (the uploader still has the original) and a download is a copy of the uploaded copy (the file uploaded is still on the server)

    Yep. And Google/YouTube lied in the Viacom case stating “no downloads”.

    Sony has to sue Google, they are the thieves.

    But I agree…..on Cathay Pacific’s AVOD, every file is licensed.

  7. scibuff said,

    … if I were a Sony competitor, I would immediately contact United and offer them all my music for free provided they just add a page listing all the songs/albums – and where it can be purchased by passengers – in the magazine! This is just so typical of this stone age musical industry behavior – instead of using this to their advantage (i.e. free ads to millions of pax who fly) they gonna sue over license that is just so easily to avoid these by, for example, streaming.
    ==========================================

    Sorry, but this argument is an admission to endorsing theft. How about [we] give you a free seat without FF Miles, right? You’d jump at it and argue that it should continue……for the narcotic high of an uncontrollable brain food whether academic or in entertainment.

    It doesn’t work that way. If you were a Sony competitor, who paid you to create a library that large to compete?

    Thanks.

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