Megaupload Sues Universal Over Questionable Video Takedown, As Will.i.am Says He Sent Takedown Too

from the this-could-get-interesting dept

Following Megaupload's marketing campaign that involved getting a ton of big name stars (many signed to major record labels) to speak out in support of Megaupload (and then putting those quotes into a song), Universal Music Group started issuing questionable takedowns for the video. We've heard numerous theories as to why UMG might think it can do so, but none seem to hold up to much scrutiny. The music in question is not UMG's.

TorrentFreak reported that MegaUpload is preparing to sue Universal Music for the bogus takedowns, while THResq has the details. You can also see the actual lawsuit here (pdf or embedded below).

Universal is claiming that one of its artists, Gin Wigmore, had unauthorized work appear in the song, though it's unclear where or how. Megaupload continues to insist that it owns all of the music. Where it gets more bizarre is that apparently will.i.am, who appears in the video saying that he uses Megaupload to "send files across the globe" also sent his own takedown:
But we've also learned that Ken Hertz, attorney for Will.I.Am, also filed a takedown request last week with YouTube. What's going on here?

Hertz says that like many of the artists who appear in the video, his client had never consented to the "Megaupload Mega Song."

UMG echoes that sentiment. “This is an on-going dispute that surfaced several weeks ago with respect to the unauthorized use of a performance from one of our artists," a UMG spokesperson tells us. "We heard from a number of our other artists and their representatives who told us they’ve never consented to being portrayed in this video."
Now this is where things get interesting. If this is true, it certainly appears that Hertz is admitting to a bogus takedown. Even assuming that what he states is true -- that will.i.am did not give permission -- that's not a copyright claim. It would be a contractual issue. Furthermore, it seems like a pretty strange claim. It's pretty clear that will.i.am did, in fact, state that he uses Megaupload to send files across the globe. Megaupload insists it has clear contracts with all the artists in question, and I'm sure the details will come out as things move forward, but it still seems like Universal (and, now, will.i.am) have a lot of explaining to do.

And, of course, it seems really bizarre that UMG would think this was a prudent course of action, when the only thing it's really done is driven a hell of a lot more attention to Megaupload. Congrats, UMG, you just spent your efforts increasing the power of Megaupload's marketing campaign.

Filed Under: copyright, dmca, gin wigmore, takedowns, will.i.am
Companies: megaupload, riaa, universal music


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  1. icon
    TtfnJohn (profile), 13 Dec 2011 @ 10:21am

    Re:

    WRONG

    What the record company owns is the copyright to a particular performance on a particular record not the song itself.

    You see, in the strange world of the RIAA copyrights get scattered left right and centre and all the label really gets from all of this is the copyright to the performance on a particular CD.

    Unless UMG is now claiming to be a music publisher, of course, which, in that case they might, just might, have an itty bitty claim on the music itself. I doubt it though. You see it's the music publisher that has the rights to the music itself, signed over to them so the artist could get a recording contract so that the likes of BMI and ASCAP could wander around telling barber shops and mechanics that they had to pay a royalty each time the song is played anywhere where the public can hear it.

    There's an additional problem here. As will.i.am is the composer then neither the label or the music publisher, strictly speaking, can stop him from performing a song or playing it blasting out of his boom box car or in his barber shop or whatever. The label is on extremely thin ground in that no two performances are ever the same so it's next to impossible to say what will.i.am did on a small stage behind the garage is protected by the same copyright as the performance on a CD is which is, invariably, different.

    It MAY become a contractual issue if UMG is claiming that they have an exclusive on appearances and performances of will.i.am or the black eyed peas (jointly or severally) in their contracts. In that case produce the contract. But it's not liable in terms of a take down notice based on copyright but on exclusivity. That's remotely possible. And if will.i.am signed a contract with megaupload to take part in a song that is original and NOT covered by outside copyright then his performance there is an issue for UMG to take up with will.i.am's agent for him breaking his contract with THEM.

    See?

    You're the one who needs to pay attention and you're the one who needs to become familiar with the web that is artist contract (a form of employment contract), exclusivity, and then copyright, preferably in that order.

    One way or another this becomes contract law and the takedown become bogus.

    Clear?

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