Universal Music Group Is Suing Prison Mixtape Distributors For Copyright Infringement

As if prison wasn't hard enough already.

Things aren’t looking up for prisoners trying to listen to their favorite songs. On Tuesday, Universal Music Group filed a lawsuit demanding that a selection of companies cease selling so-called “care packages” that family members or friends of prisoners can send to incarcerated loved ones. These packages include mixtapes featuring songs from artists like James Brown, Eminem, Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Wonder.

The lawsuit alleges that that the companies are illegally profiting off copyrighted material.

"Defendants boast on their website that their business 'was developed to eliminate contraband,' yet the infringing copies of Plaintiffs’ sound recordings and musical compositions, in which Defendants unlawfully transact and from which they unjustly profit, are contraband personified," claims the suit.

The document attempts to provide a legal definition of a “mixtape”:

"Mixtapes are a form of recorded music in which DJs combine (or 'mix') tracks, often recorded by different artists, onto a single CD, sometimes creating overlaps and fades between songs, and/or reflecting a common theme or mood. 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 composition.”

Universal is demanding the maximum quantity of damages, in the amount of $150,000 for each work infringed upon.

While the law is the law, depriving prisoners of music seems like a small, petty thing for Universal to be worrying about.

What do you think? Is Universal right to demand payment for the music? Let us know in the comments.

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