Video-sharing site, YouTube, could potentially be facing a billion-dollar lawsuit over music rights. Legal teams from artists such as Pharrell Williams and The Eagles are asking for around 20,000 songs to be taken down, or face litigation.
The popular site has debuted its long-delayed Music Key feature, which attempts to leverage YouTube’s potential as a music platform. For those not in the know, Google has made it so that users can listen to YouTube on mobile without ever having to look at the video. In addition to that, interested parties can now download videos through Music Key for offline playback. But, in doing so, YouTube has raised the ire of the Global Music Rights group (GMR), which is a powerful start-up that is backing the lawsuit if its clients songs aren’t removed from the video sharing site.
Founded by Irving Azoff, a music manager whom Billboard called “the most powerful man in the music industry” in 2012, GMR has partnerships with Pharrell Williams and The Eagles. Music Key, whom sought licenses from labels big and small in order to stockpile its new service, has rubbed Azoff and GMR the wrong way. According to filed documents, GMR argues that YouTube does not have the proper licenses for the 20,000 songs represented by the company. YouTube argues that it does due to agreements signed by ASCAP.
With the two sides mired in disagreement, GMR is angling for a big lawsuit. “Without providing a shred of documentation, you blithely proffer that YouTube can ignore the Notices because it operates under blanket licenses from performing rights organizations other than Global,” wrote Howard King, a GMR attorney, in a letter to YouTube. “However, you refuse to provide the details of any such license agreements, presumably because no such agreements exist for YouTube’s present uses of the Songs in any service, but certainly with respect to its recently added Music Key service.”
GMR is essentially picking up the old argument Viacom used when it took YouTube to court. The Irving Azoff-led company believes that with the existence of ContentID, YouTube has knowledge of infringing copyright via its site, and that YouTube should lose its safe harbor status under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. “It is disingenuous that they can keep their hands over eyes until we tell them the URL,” King told The Hollywood Reporter. “They know where it is. We don’t want this to become whack-a-mole.”
For more details about this big brouhaha, including the full texts of the letters between the two companies’ respective legal teams, please head over to The Hollywood Reporter.