Team Bieber issue cease and desist against Free Bieber campaign

By | Published on Monday 31 October 2011

Justin Bieber

So this is fun. Justin Bieber’s lawyers have reportedly sent a cease and desist letter to the Fight The Future group demanding it stops its Free Bieber campaign.

As previously reported, the Fight The Future group in the US is opposing a proposed change to American copyright law which would make it a criminal offence to operate a streaming service providing unlicensed content. Under the new law anyone found running such a streaming operation could be jailed for up to five years.

As part of its opposition to the new laws, Fight The Future has launched the Free Bieber campaign, based on the theory that the pop teen – who first came to wider attention by posting videos of himself singing other people’s songs on YouTube – could be guilty of a felony under the new laws because he didn’t have the permission of the songs’ writers.

Though, as previously reported, whatever you think of the proposed new copyright laws, the Free Bieber campaign is flawed on two levels. Firstly, his videos were posted on YouTube, which is licensed by most of the music industry, so he likely did have the indirect permission of the songwriters in question. And secondly, even if he didn’t, as the uploader of the unlicensed content he would not be guilty of the new copyright crime, only the company operating the video sharing website would be.

It’s possibly for those reasons that Bieber’s people aren’t happy that their boy has become the face of the campaign against the new laws. Or perhaps his record company, Universal, which is supporting the proposed new legilsation, has had a word. Either way, Team Bieber have demanded Fight The Future stop using his name and image to front their campaign.

All of which adds another layer of intellectual property law shenanigans to this story. According to Digital Music News, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has said it is supporting Fight The Future on this one, and that it believes no trademark violation has occurred, and that the use of Bieber’s name and image on the Free Bieber website is protected by fair use provisions in American copyright law and the mighty First Amendment. Which basically means Bieber can’t stop himself from being the poster boy of a campaign against new laws all his commercial partners support. Good times.