A month ago, Universal Music Group head honcho Doug Morris threatened to sue YouTube and MySpace, claiming that both companies owed UMG a lot of money for all the videos on those sites that used UMG music. As we noted at the time, this seemed mainly like a negotiating ploy -- and it worked. The same day that Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion, YouTube signed deals with Universal Music Group and a variety of other content providers. However, that was apparently just the beginning for Morris and UMG. They're not happy about all the other video sites out there who haven't agreed to pay up. Now they've finally pulled the trigger and filed lawsuits against smaller sites Bolt.com and Grouper, which was just acquired by Sony. They're pushing for the maximum, claiming each view is an infringement worth $150,000 (the upper boundary of what they can claim). Of course, the DMCA has said that the sites aren't responsible for what their users do, so to get around that, UMG's lawyers are playing a word game to make it seem like these sites have much more control over the content than they really do. They accuse the sites of "copying, reformatting, distributing and creating derivative works from Universal's musicians." Of course, all of that is done automatically as part of the platform, rather than as a conscious decision of anyone at these sites -- which makes it seem like a pretty big stretch to think that the DMCA protections shouldn't work here. Still, the bigger issue, honestly, is UMG's inability to recognize that they're probably doing a lot more damage to their own business here than helping it. Music videos have always been about promotions. They promote the band and the music and get people to buy CDs, go see concerts or get them involved in a variety of other business models. So, here are a bunch of people trying to do Universal's promotions job for them... for free... and Universal is trying to sue them and kill off the promotional value of its own content.
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