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Universal sues maker of VH1/Smirnoff DJ contest

By | Published on Wednesday 27 August 2014

Master Of The Mix

Universal Music has sued the makers of a DJ competition that airs on VH1 in the US called ‘Master Of The Mix’, claiming that the telly show failed to licence the songs and recordings that featured in its third series.

Interestingly, Universal’s lawsuit – which lists both recording and publishing subsidiaries of the mega-major as plaintiffs – goes after production companies involved in making the programme, rather than VH1 as its broadcaster (for the offending third series, it started off on other Viacom-owned networks) or Smirnoff as its sponsor.

And while it might seem odd to suggest that someone might go after a sponsor in a case like this, ‘Master Of The Mix’ is more what marketing people would called ‘branded content’ than a straight sponsorship arrangement, in that it was made with Smirnoff in mind, the show’s winner becomes the drinks brand’s official DJ for a year, and the brand’s owner Diageo has reportedly invested in the franchise. And while Smirnoff is not named, the branded entertainment company behind the show and Smirnoff’s involvement, GTM Inc, is among the defendants.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Universal claims that the programme properly licensed all the music used in its first two series, but failed to do so for the third, during which it used 93 songs repped by Universal’s publishing business, and 115 recordings released by its labels.

The defendants are yet to respond.