UMG, MegaUpload Case Gets Even Stranger; Will.i.am Says He Didn't Authorize A Takedown
from the so-what's-going-on dept
Things keep getting stranger with the legal dispute over the whole Megaupload song. As you may remember, Megaupload hired a bunch of celebrities to say nice things about Megaupload, which the company turned into a song and video. Universal Music flipped its lid and issued a takedown, claiming that there was a performance from singer Gin Wigmore, which they held the copyright on. MegaUpload then sued Universal Music. At the same time, singer will.i.am’s lawyer claimed that will.i.am sent a takedown also, saying that the singer had never agreed to the project.
Almost none of this made sense. We’d heard from various sources that Wigmore doesn’t even appear in the video at all and had nothing to do with the song. Furthermore, the will.i.am stuff was really confusing. First of all, if he hadn’t agreed to this, why did he say things about how wonderful MegaUpload is on video? He must have agreed to do that. Second, even if he didn’t agree to it, at best there’s a contractual claim there and/or a publicity rights claim. There’s simply no copyright claim. His words are not his to copyright, as they’re not fixed in any medium. Whoever made the video would hold the copyright — which, in this case, is MegaUpload. Even more ridiculous was the notion, floated by some in our comments, that will.i.am’s contract with Universal grants them automatic copyright, which is why UMG could issue a takedown. Again, this makes no sense for a variety of reasons. First, the same reason as above, without the works being fixed, there’s no copyright in those words for will.i.am to assign to Universal. Second, UMG can’t claim copyright on everything someone says. Third, even if this preposterous claim was true, will.i.am still would have no right to send a takedown, because he wouldn’t own the copyright either. UMG would.
MegaUpload, has now hit back. It notes that Gin Wigmore does not appear in the song, did not write the song, and has absolutely nothing to do with the song. The company had apparently spoken to her about participating, but eventually went with Macy Gray instead. So the claim that this is under UMG copyright because of Wigmore doesn’t appear to be true. Furthermore, MegaUpload provided the contract signed by will.i.am (embedded below), allowing them to make use of his words… the company’s boss claims that will.i.am personally insists that he did not authorize a takedown. That raises questions about whether or not will.i.am’s lawyer was confused or if he was just acting on his own.
“On December 12, 2011, I spoke directly with will.i.am about this issue, and he personally advised me that he absolutely had not authorized the submission of any takedown notice on his behalf.”
In the meantime, it looks like the judge is skeptical. Judge Claudia Wilken has given UMG until the end of the day to respond and explain the takedown…
Either way, this is going to remain quite the fascinating case to watch.