MP3.com wilfully violated Universal Music Group’s copyrights, a court decided yesterday.

MP3.com will appeal District Judge Jed S Rakoff’s decision. Michael Robertson, CEO of MP3.com, said: "We believe that everyone should have the right to listen to the music they purchase, even if it's on the Internet. While we respect the court, we disagree with the court's decision and we look forward to taking our case to the Court of Appeals."

Damages determined Judge Rakoff ordered MP3.com to pay damages of at least $118 million, or $25,000 for each of Universal's estimated 4,700 CD collection. That figure could go up or down, depending on the number of "qualifying CDs" determined in the final phase of the trial in November, he said.

Rakoff clearly stated that MP3.com wilfully violated the copyright and did it with financial gain in mind.

Profits ruling He said: "There is no doubt in the court's mind that the potential for huge profits in the rapidly expanding world of the Internet is the lure that tempted an otherwise generally responsible company like MP3.com to break the law, and that will also tempt others to do so if too low a level is set for the statutory damages in this case.

"Some of the evidence in this case strongly suggests that some companies operating in this area of the Internet may have a misconception that, because their technology is somewhat novel, they are somehow immune from the ordinary applications of laws of the United States, including copyright law."

Universal has said that it wants others that also infringe on its copyrights to stop doing so, and will pursue them through legal channels.

Settled cases MP3.com had settled other copyright infringement cases with the four other major music labels – Warners, EMI, BMG and Sony Music Entertainment. MP3.com paid $20 million to settle each case, according to analysts and observers.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) filed each lawsuit on the behalf of the music labels. Each label then had to come to a separate licensing-agreement with MP3.com.