A group of music publishers is suing German media company Bertelsmann for its funding of internet music service Napster.
The music publishers are seeking damages of at least U$17bn (£10.6bn), claiming that Bertelsmann contributed to wide-scale infringement of their copyrighted works by funding the song-swapping service based on peer-to-peer technology.
The plaintiffs, including the songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, alleged that Bertelsmann's decision to fund Napster prolonged the service's life and, therefore, the illicit sharing of music.
Bertelsmann spokesman Rocco Thiede claimed he had no knowledge of the lawsuit and no comment other than the company's official statement on the online music venture: "Napster was never a Bertelsmann company."
In November, software supplier Roxio acquired Napster's remaining assets after a bankruptcy court in Delaware approved the deal. The supplier of CD-burning software agreed to pay $5.3m in cash and stock for Napster's intellectual property, including domain name and trademarks, and extensive technological portfolio.