MySpace faces legal battle over copyright issues

This post is quite long. I’ve made an effort to present the facts of the legal battle. At the end of the post I leave you with my opinion on the situation and some links for further reading, including the full text of the filed lawsuit.

In an effort to protect copyright holders, MySpace recently announced a partnership with Gracenote to set in place a system to filter unauthorized, copyrighted, works from being uploaded by users. But Universal Music Group says it’s not enough. UMG filed suit friday, Nov 17, 2006, against MySpace for copyright infringement. It really comes as no surprise considering the critical comments label chairman Doug Morris was making last week concerning MySpace.

In the filing UMG states that MySpace “harbors no illusions” that their online community site contains infringing content. They also claim that MySpace

knowingly and intentionally operated it’s business on the fiction that it has obtained the licenses it needs to exist

this in reference to users claiming ownership of content while UMG insists MySpace

well knows are not the true copyright holders

UMG went on to state that MySpace

encourages, facilitates and participates in the unauthorized reproduction, adaptation, distribution and public performance

of works owned by UMG. The label is requesting damages of $150,000 per track regardless of form (audio or video). A spokesperson for UMG issued a statement about why the suit was filed.

Businesses that seek to trade off on our content, and the hard work of our artists and songwriters, shouldn’t be free to do so without permission and without fairly compensating the content creators. Our music and videos play a key role in building the communities that have created hundreds of millions of dollars of value for the owners of MySpace. Our goal is not to inhibit the creation of these communities, but to ensure that our rights and those of our artists are recognized.

MySpace has responded publicly to the suit, saying it is “unnecessary and meritless.”

MySpace provides an extraordinary promotion platform for artists ‚Äì from major labels to independent acts ‚Äì while respecting their copyrights…

We are in full compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and have no doubt we will prevail in court…

Moreover, we proactively take steps to filter unauthorized music sound recordings and have implemented audio fingerprinting technology.

Moreover, the very day the suit was filed MySpace began bragging on the efficiency of their new partnership with Gracenote as well as a new tool allowing copyright owners to flag unauthorized uses of their content.

The new tool will allow copyright holders to digitally flag any user-posted video containing content that they own and allege is unauthorized…

With the new tool, MySpace will make it even easier for copyright holders to identify and take down user-posted videos containing unauthorized content.

I understand the difficulties MySpace faces in policing such a large user contributed online portal. The Gracenote partnership and the ability to flag content as unauthorized seems very reasonable to me. This whole online environment is new territory for all parties involved. The copyrights do need to be honored, and yes MySpace should have implemented such measures from the beginning, but none the less, a lawsuit seems rash at this point. The two companies tried to come to a licensing agreement but those talks fell through when MySpace refused to pay retroactively for content that has previously been on the site. Come on UMG, work with us here.

Further reading:

  • brance said:

    >The copyrights do need to be honored, and yes
    >MySpace should have implemented such measures
    >from the beginning, but none the less, a lawsuit
    >seems rash at this point.

    and

    >talks fell through when MySpace refused to pay
    >retroactively for content that has previously
    >been on the site. Come on UMG, work with us
    >here.

    It has been suggested elsewhere in this site that a new model for copyright protection in the digital age need to be worked out. as an IT consultant by day, i have seen a lot of innovation and technological convergence slowed by legal wrangling, and this issue certainly seems to be suffering from the same ennui.

    it is in the interest of UMG, MySpace, and both the music business and internet/digital entertainment communities to work together. i have suggested elsewhere in these blog pages that flagrant copyright violation is abhorrent and illegal. others vehemently disagree. fine. the best way to remedy the often vitriolic feuding on this subject is to simply acknowledge the fact that the system is not working as is, and that definining a solution would benefit principals on both sides of the issue.

    legal and business experts can sort out the numbers, but the best solution is to put down the weapons and work together.

    good article, Brance.

    kip