BMG, Aggressive Champion Of Copyright Enforcement, Accused Of Copyright Infringement By Jehovah's Witnesses
from the can-I-get-a-witness? dept
Readers here will not need to be reminded that BMG, a prolific music label, is also a prolific enforcer of copyright. BMG has been party to some of the most notable instances of copyright enforcement, from its lawsuit against Cox, to its use of Rightscorp to troll internet users and lie to them, up to and including taking down news videos of President Obama singing an Al Green song. There are plenty more examples after those, leaving anyone perusing them with the distinct impression that BMG super-duper respects the strictest enforcement of copyright laws, presumably in order to protect creators of content.
But that wouldn’t seem to be the case if the accusations from the Jehovah’s Witness affiliated Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society are true. See, BMG is the publisher for artist Aled Jones’ album Blessings, which is essentially a collection of religious songs from a wide variety of faiths. Jones included a Jehovah’s Witness song, kicking off a shit storm.
The problem lies in a song on the album called “Listen, Obey and Be Blessed”, a work owned by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, the supervising body and publisher for the Jehovah’s Witness religious group. The appearance of this song on a commercial album immediately raised alarm bells among the religion’s followers who, through their teachings and knowledge of their faith, knew this track shouldn’t have been used in this manner.
And so a lawsuit was filed. BMG is listed as the defendant alongside various John Does, all of whom Watch Tower accuses of violating its copyrights on the song. The group has a copyright registration on the song via a song book it constructed. Watch Tower also is the only authorized entity for licensing the song, which it has only licensed to other parts of the Jehovah’s Witness organization. Watch Tower also reached out to Aled Jones prior to the album’s release informing him that he didn’t have permission to use the song. At that point, BMG responded, indicating it had a license from GEMA, the German rights society. And that, friends, is where things get really weird.
Despite the claims from both music outfits, Watch Tower insists it never approved licenses. This appears to be supported in a response from GEMA, which told the religious group that BMG UK had asked for a license but the request was denied because GEMA had no rights to license the work.
The buck was then passed to BMG in the US, who were apparently in the process of obtaining a compulsory mechanical license to use the song. However, Watch Tower says the necessary procedures weren’t followed so that licensing opportunity failed. As a result, BMG is guilty of copyright infringement and causing reputational damage to the entire religion.
I mean, if BMG published the album including the song before it had gone through the process to obtain the mechanical license then… yeah. I suppose there’s a chance that at trial BMG could come up with some kind of evidence that it had procured a proper license for the song, but it sure seems like if such evidence existed it would have been presented prior to the lawsuit being filed at all.
Which would make BMG, fervent protectors of copyright, nothing but a bunch of dirty ol’ pirates. Hypocrisy of this kind is by no means rare, but it still always amazes me how much you can rely on the most ardent enforcers of copyright eventually being found out to have violated copyright themselves.