Copyright Infringement: Background Music Embedded in Popular YouTube Videos

Psy-hits-1-billion-views-on-youtube-with-gangnam-styleBy 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

Harvard Law School and Ravel Law Collaborate to Improve Access to the Common Law

printerBy Carlie Bacon

The technological age has transformed the once-useful volumes lining the walls of law firms and libraries into decorative dust-collectors. Just like this blog post, the information in those books can be accessed from anywhere that you can check your email. Law is widely regarded as a conservative profession, but even so, modern attorneys and law students conduct legal research online. Why turn page after page at a desk somewhere, when you can scroll through seamless documents from the comfort of, well, anywhere?

Companies like Westlaw and LexisNexis offer access to enormous electronic databases and handy research tools, but at a cost. Subscription fees can total millions of dollars annually for large firms. Like those shelves full of books, commercial databases’ days may be numbered too. Continue reading

A Digital Library of Alexandria: Google Books Remains Fair Use

simple-design-cute-home-library-shelving-units-home-depot-shelving-home-library-shelving-highlights-790x592By Sam Hampton

In the latest development in a decade long case, the Second Circuit ruled on October 16th that Google Books was fair use and did not violate book copyrights. The service provides fully searchable digital versions of over 20 million books. This tally includes copyrighted work; additionally, the full text of many books in the public domain that have been digitized. The service works with the Google Books Library Project, which partners with major libraries to digitize the volumes; the project’s goal is “to create a comprehensive, searchable, virtual card catalog of all books in all languages.”

The lawsuit was initiated in September 2005 by a number of copyright owners, as well as the Authors Guild, a nonprofit that supports authors. Google defended its service under the fair use doctrine. The District Court granted summary judgment in Google’s favor in November 2013, from which the appeal followed. Continue reading

Fight for Your (Legal) Rights: The Beastie Boys Vindicate Their Copyright Interests, Again

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Photo Credit: Stereogum

By Jeffrey Echert

It’s smooth legal sailing again for the Beastie Boys. Just last week, a federal court in New York handed down a decision in an infringement suit against Monster Energy. Monster had used five Beastie Boys songs in a promotional video for a snowboarding competition, as well as “RIP MCA” in a font similar to the Monster logo (Beastie Boys’ member MCA, real name Adam Yauch, died in 2012). The Beastie Boys brought suit, claiming infringement of copyright and that Monster falsely implied an endorsement by the Beastie Boys. After hearing extensive testimony from Adam Horovitz and Michael Diamond, the jury awarded the Boys 1.7 million dollars in damages.

We’ve previously reported on legal issues surrounding the potential appropriation of the Beastie Boys’ catalogue before—last year, toy company GoldieBlox sued the Boys, hoping to receive a declaratory judgment in its favor for the use of the song “Girls” in an advertisement. The case settled in March of this year. As part of the settlement agreement, GoldieBlox made a public apology and donated a percentage of its revenues to charities that support STEM education for girls. Continue reading