Japanese record companies have filed a class action suit against MusicGate, parent company of TubeFire, for allowing users to download YouTube videos. The suit is demanding the site be shut down and that MusicGate pays 230 million yen (about $3 million) in damages.

The plaintiffs, 31 companies which mostly are members of the Recording Industry Association of Japan, contend that MusicGate violates Copyright Act provisions by facilitating the reproduction, mass distribution and storage of proprietary material without the consent of the copyright holders.

According to the RIAJ, over 2.2 million people a month visit MusicGate’s TubeFire website, which went live in 2007. It further attests that at least 10,000 music videos were copied from YouTube using the TubeFire service in May through June 2011. It obtained much of its data from a nationwide survey of at least 4,200 people aged between 13 and 69, and found that about 70 percent of them use video sites, including YouTube. About half of that 70 percent said they download music files.

TubeFire converts YouTube videos, which are designed to be viewed as a streaming-only service, into video or music-only files that can be played on any device and at any time the user wishes. MusicGate has pulled down the TubeFire service. In its place is a statement affirming that the site has respected copyrights and is not clear why the suit was filed, but that it was shut to prevent the spread of any problem and to demonstrate that it takes the allegations seriously.

The suit assessed the damages based on the amount of money the plaintiffs would have earned if the music was legitimately purchased. TubeFire “promotes users’ illegal actions and hampers the growth of the music distribution business,” the written complaint said.

“The popularity of video sites is having a negative impact on the sales of CDs and DVDs, and also rental and paid distribution services,” the RIAJ said in a statement. As evidence, it put forward the fact that only one single release sold more than 1 million units in 2010, a drop from 14 singles achieving that benchmark in 2000. It further said that not one album sold 1 million or more units in 2008 and 2009.

The class action suit was filed against MusicGate Inc. in Tokyo District Court.

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