By Chike Eze
Gone are the days when only major studios had a monopoly on manufacturing “celebrities.” YouTube has ushered in a new category – the self-made “celebrity YouTuber.” Michelle Phan is an extremely popular YouTuber who is well known for her entertaining videos on how to put on different types of makeup. She currently has more than eight million subscribers, and her popular “Barbie Transformation Tutorial” video has over sixty million views. A far cry from Gangnam’s two billion views, but impressive nonetheless. Ms. Phan generates revenue by monetizing her videos and endorsing various products in her videos. And just like other famous YouTubers, she uses popular copyrighted songs as background music in her videos that are distributed to millions via YouTube.
In July 2014, Ultra Records, LLC (“Ultra”) brought a copyright infringement suit against Ms. Phan in the U.S. District Court, Central District of California. Ultra alleged that Ms. Phan had engaged in a “wholesale infringement” of Ultra’s musical compositions and recordings, citing 50 instances of Ms. Phan’s direct copyright infringement. Ultra further stated that Ms. Phan had profited from using its artists’ tracks and compilations. Consequently, Ultra sought $150,000 in statutory damages for each instance of copyright infringement, and demanded an injunction against Ms. Phan’s continued use of its copyrighted material. Continue reading