Case Examples Continued | Leo Versel | April 19, 2016


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Case Examples Continued

by Leo Versel Show/Hide

UMG Recordings INC. Vs  Veoh Networks INC:

Plaintiff: Universal Music Group

Facts: Veoh is a video sharing website that allowed for users to upload video content, then the company would reformat and republish the videos all for free. The site had a category called “music videos” with many of the videos using music from Universal Music Group and other labels artists without getting the proper license. UMG filed a lawsuit claiming that Veoh was committing copyright infringement because they did not pay for the license to use the music nor were they paying any royalties.

Decision: Veoh was cleared of all claims because UMG was not able to bring for specific infringement based music videos. Set a precedent for all future cases involving online media and it’s use of music making it the record labels/artists job to track down all the music being used without a license and take it down themselves. Web sites such as Veoh and Youtube are not held accountable.

Broadcast Music Inc. vs Columbia Broadcasting System:

Plaintiff: Columbia Broadcasting System

Facts: This case was brought about 30 years after the Consent Decrees against ASCAP and BMI were put into place. In the lawsuit, Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) claimed that Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) was still charging unfair prices for music licensing for radio. CBS argued that the fees given to them very illegal because they were based on price fixing between the two licensing agencies (ASCAP and BMI).

Ruling: The issuance by ASCAP and BMI of blanket licenses does not constitute price-fixing per se unlawful under the antitrust laws.

“Blurred Lines” Copyright Case of Pharell Williams, Robin Thicke, and T.I. v. the Heirs of Marvin Gaye

Plaintiff: Marvin Gaye's Heirs

Facts: On March 10, 2015 a federal jury ordered singer and producer Pharrell Williams and singer Robin Thicke to pay $7.4 million dollars, which was later reduced to late singer Marvin Gaye's heirs, who said that their new single, “Blurred Lines,” was copyright infringement of Gaye's 70's hit “Gotta Give It Up.” They said that “Blurred Lines” copied the feel and music of Gaye's song. Pharrell, Robin Thicke and rapper T.I, who also appeared on the song, vowed that they never intentionally used anything deliberate from the song. They did want the 70's feel that Gaye was known for, but feel that they didn't take directly from the song itself. So how did this jury determine whether or not this was a copyright infringement? 

Ruling: The judge ruled that the original $7.4 million be reduced to $5.3 million, but that the Gaye family is to also receive fifty percent of the royalties from “Blurred Lines” going forward.

Spotify v NMPA (National Music Publishers Association)

Facts: NMPA claims Spotify did not obtain the proper mechanical licenses for a large portion of songs on their service. Also that they didn’t pay the mechanical royalties needed for the songs (9.1 cents). Spotify needs to pay this in order to use the song, lawsuit claims they did not. Essentially no one is getting paid for the playing of the tracks. The plaintiffs were seeking $200 million. In response to the lawsuit, Spotify claimed they did not have the proper data to tell if the publisher’s were telling the truth or not about a specific song and therefore did not know who to pay. They had no central database to record licenses and send out the appropriate amount to each publisher.

Ruling: Publishers and Spotify settled out of court for $20 million

(Audio Visual Material) 

“Blurred Lines” by Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke and T.I.

Marvin Gaye's “Gotta Give It Up”


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April 20, 2016

music licensing copyright cases

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Leo Versel


American University

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