Music Industry Changes Its Tune.


As YouTube has become the default listening service for young people, the music industry has frequently sparred with YouTube and its owner, Google, over the licensing issues, which can be confusingly opaque. It’s another sign of YouTube’s ever-growing expansion, helping its owners Google generate $50 billion in revenue, meaning there’s plenty that have noticed it as veritably untapped goldmine for litigation.

The National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) filed a copyright infringement suit against Fullscreen, one of the largest suppliers of videos to YouTube, saying that Fullscreen’s videos—particularly cover versions of popular songs—infringe on the publishers’ copyrights.

According to the suit, most of these lack the proper licenses and do not pay publishers and songwriters the royalties earned from ad revenue. (Publishers represent the music and lyrics underlying songs, not recordings of them, which are covered by a separate copyright.)

YouTube notched a major victory when Viacom lost its landmark copyright infringement suit against Google last month. The basic idea behind the ruling was that YouTube could not be expected to police every piece of unauthorized music and video content on its site, and that the burden to remove the content largely fell on the copyright holders.

NMPA’s lawsuit could signal that publishers are becoming smarter about how to fight back against unlicensed music content on the Web. The NMPA case is tricky though, because it requires the court to determine how much, if any, of the content curation is done by Fullscreen.

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