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More words exchanged in Mega Song dispute

By | Published on Friday 16 December 2011


More Universal-related litigation, and the ‘Mega Song’ dispute continues. As previously reported, MegaUpload last week posted an all star song bigging up the file-sharing platform, with various big name artists, many signed to major labels, saying how great Mega is for sharing large files on the net.

It was amusing because the labels to which many of those artists are signed have been increasingly critical of MegaUpload and some of its competitors of late because, the big rights owners reckon, they are providing a new kind of illegal file-sharing network. The ‘Mega Song’ video was subsequently removed from YouTube because of a copyright claim by Universal Music. But MegaUpload said it owns the copyright in the tedious promo ditty, and therefore Universal was abusing the takedown provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. As a result, it sued the major.

Universal responded by saying that it acted against the song on behalf of one of its artists, Gin Wigmore, who said she was featured in the promo video without her permission. Reports then followed that other artists who featured in the video had also raised concerns, though the only such artist specifically mentioned was, who had apparently issued his own takedown notice to YouTube in relation to his appearance in the vid.

MegaUpload, which insists it has watertight agreements with all the artists featured in its song, hit back at all those claims yesterday. First, the company filed a legal document with the court saying that Wigmore doesn’t even feature in the video, because while she may have provided a contribution it wasn’t used in the final edit. Wigmore and Universal must have mistaken another bit of vocal for her voice. Second, MegaUpload founder Kim Schmitz – aka Kim Dotcom – said he’d personally spoken to who said he had no knowledge of any takedown notice being issued in his name.

Shortly after those comments had been made, it emerged that Universal had issued legal papers in response to MegaUpload’s litigation, though those papers did not detail the music major’s reasons for requesting that the ‘Mega Song’ be removed. Instead the major argue that MegaUpload cannot sue Universal for alleged violation of the takedown system in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (which forbids bogus copyright claims), because its takedown notice last week was issued under a contractual agreement with YouTube and not any statutory framework.

It’s an interesting technicality, and there are differing viewpoints as to whether it would stand up in court. YouTube’s current content takedown system, although based on the DMCA, certainly goes to much greater lengths to protect copyright owners than the US law prescribes. That said, it’s thought that when rights owners sign up to the video site’s copyright protection system they are warned that a misuse of the takedown process could result in them being liable for a damages claim from the actual copyright owner.

Though who knows what Universal’s agreement with YouTube specifically says? Though if it does transpire that the music major can, under contract, order content be removed from the video site even if there isn’t a case under copyright law, that basically gives the music firm the power to censor the YouTube site, which would be embarrassing for its owner, Google.

Needless to say, MegaUpload was not impressed by Universal’s new arguments. It remains to be seen how this one turns out.