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Universal sues poker podcast over uncleared music use

By | Published on Wednesday 21 November 2018

Universal Music

We may have a podcast where we talk a lot about copyright infringement, but we don’t actually do any copyright infringing. However, Universal Music reckons that podcasts published by a global website for poker fans – PokerNews – do infringe copyright by including tracks controlled by the major without permission.

The major sued PokerNews owner iBus Media for wilful copyright infringement in the Californian courts last week. The lawsuit states that: “Among the content made available by iBus Media on PokerNews, and through other forums, are hundreds of podcasts that intentionally incorporate significant portions of plaintiffs’ copyrighted musical works”.

Licensing music for podcasts can be tricky because, unlike radio, generally licences are not available through the collective licensing system, especially on the recordings side. Therefore podcast publishers would need licences from each individual label for every track played. That’s one of the reasons why most of the really big podcasts are spoken word with only library music used for idents and backing tracks.

Universal claims that it first informed iBus Media that it was using its recordings in its podcasts without licence nearly three years ago, but that PokerNews has nevertheless continued to include the major’s music in its output. The record company says that its tracks appear prominently in the podcasts and are “undoubtedly used with the intention of making the podcasts more appealing to listeners”.

The record company is seeking the nifty statutory damages allowed under US copyright law of $150,000 per infringement, meaning that – with 46 specific tracks listed in the complaint – that could result in damages of nearly $7 million. iBus would have to play quite a few games of poker to get that kind of money back.