Court: AOL Must Stop Distributing AOL 6.0 Software

On Monday, U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz issued a preliminary injunction against America Online, preventing it from distributing its AOL 6.0 software because of copyright infringement against PlayMedia Systems, a maker of MP3 playback technology. The court ruled that AOL was distributing PlayMedia's MP3 decoding technology with AOL's Media Player 6.0 without permission.

AOL released a short statement saying it would seek a stay of the injunction while pursuing an "immediate appeal" of the "preliminary ruling."

If the preliminary injunction holds, it could cost AOL tens of millions of dollars since many users are still using AOL 6.0. The company distributes its software all over the place including mass mailings, cereal boxes and even bundled with new computers.

PlayMedia's CEO and chairman, Brian D. Litman, said in a statement that he regretted that the matter had to go to litigation. "Nevertheless, we are heartened by Judge Matz's decision and will continue to vigorously enforce our intellectual property rights to the AMP engine," he said.

In 1999, PlayMedia (www.playmediasystems.com) originally licensed its AMP MP3 decoding engine to Nullsoft, makers of the popular Winamp MP3 playback software. The trouble started when America Online acquired Nullsoft in 2000, and started using PlayMedia's technolgy outside of Winamp, where it was originally licensed. As a result, PlayMedia sued AOL for copyright infringement on April 2001 and calling for a halt to distribution of AOL software.

Just a few weeks ago, AOL unveiled its newest software, version 7.0, which comes with a Spinner.com-based music player called Radio@AOL. The court ruling does not have an effect on AOL 7.0 software since it uses a different MP3 engine.

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