Sony Sues United Airlines For Polluting The In-Flight Air With Copyrighted Music

Have you been on a United Airlines flight and soothed your nerves by listening to a Britney Spears or Michael Jackson provided by the plane’s in-flight system? According to a new lawsuit from Sony Music, that music was being played without permission.

The Hollywood Reporter writes that Sony filed suit against United Airlines, Inflight Productions and Rightscom in a New York federal court on Tuesday, alleging that these companies placed and played music on planes in violation of copyright laws.

Sony says it learned about the music through Rightscom, which specializes in rights management (as the name implies) and which told the record company that Inflight would be negotiating deals with the various Sony labels to get their music onto United planes.

But while all this negotiation was going on, Sony claims United just went ahead and started letting customers play those songs anyway.

Since the in-flight music system used on the planes is an on-demand system and not a passive, radio-style broadcast that would arguably fall under statutory royalties — meaning the airline would pay a fixed fee to labels and artists for the songs — Sony argues that the airline and its partners are required to negotiate royalties for the songs played.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction stopping the Sony tunes from being used on United flights, along with the usual unspecified damages.