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Given how aggressively the recording industry likes to pursue file sharers, one would assume that the industry itself is in the clear when it comes to copyright infringement. But that assumption has been put to the test in Canada, where a massive infringement lawsuit is brewing against some major players. Members of the Canadian Recording Industry Association, including the Big Four (Warner Music Canada, Sony BMG Music Canada, EMI Music Canada, and Universal Music Canada), face the prospect of damages ranging from $50 million up to $60 billion due to their use of artists' music without permission. That's right: $60 billion.

The lawsuit in question goes back to October 2008, but continues to be dragged up in the news because new plaintiffs keep joining the case. Most recently, jazz musician Chet Baker's estate has joined the growing list of musicians and artists who are getting on the music industry's case for their abuse of a certain aspect of Canadian copyright practices—something that the labels themselves don't even deny doing.

As University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist pointed out on his blog, the issue stems from a change to the law in the 1980s that eventually produced something known as the "pending list." Essentially, record companies no longer had to get a compulsory license every time they wanted to use a song for, say, a compilation album. Instead, they went ahead and used the song without waiting for authorization or making payment, adding the song to a list of music that is pending authorization and payment. If you're questioning whether you read that right, that basically means the record industries could use songs as long as they pinky swore they would get authorization and pay the artist for it eventually.

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