Retailer fined in France for copying Madonna song

PARIS, June 28, 2006 (AFP) – The Virgin music retailer in France has been fined 600,000 euros (756,000 dollars) for illegally downloading a Madonna song to resell it on its own pay-per-tune site.

A Paris industrial court imposed the penalty on the company’s subsidiary after finding it ignored an exclusive contract between Warner Music France and France Telecom and its mobile unit Orange by copying Madonna’s song "Hung Up" and retailing itself in October last year.

France Telecom and Orange had bought sole rights to sell the song online for a week in France from Warner for 500,000 euros, according to the court’s ruling given last Friday.

The verdict ordered VirginMega to pay 100,000 euros to Warner, and 250,000 euros each to France Telecom and Orange.

Warner Music France welcomed the result, saying it had succeeded in "having its rights and those of its artist respected".

Virgin France, though, argued that the judgement "confirmed the need to do everything to help build a balanced market for legal downloads".

It and another major French music retailer, FNAC, have criticised recent moves by recording companies to farm out top selling singles to Internet and mobile operators first under exclusive contracts.

Virgin France was bought from Britain’s Virgin Group in 2001 by the French conglomerate Lagardere.