Tuesday 20 December 2011, 12:24 | By

Universal has no special takedown privileges says YouTube

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Universal Music

The war of words is ongoing over the ‘Mega Song’ and its initial removal from YouTube, though the sparring this week is between Universal Music and YouTube itself, with MegaUpload watching from the sidelines for the time being.

As previously reported, the ‘Mega Song’ is a promotional video posted by MegaUpload ten days ago featuring various well known music types singing about how great the file-transfer platform is for moving large files around the internet. The appearance of the likes of Will.i.am and Kanye West in the video was a surprising, because the major record companies to which said artists are signed has accused MegaUpload of providing a platform for a new kind of illegal file-sharing.

Universal Music requested that YouTube remove the video, which the video sharing website promptly did, citing a copyright claim from the music major. But MegaUpload quickly pointed out that it owned the copyright in the ‘Mega Song’, and therefore Universal had misused the content takedown system set out in US copyright law, which isn’t allowed under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. MegaUpload then sued Universal over the allegations seeking damages.

Initially there was talk of Universal acting on behalf of its artists, who said they hadn’t given MegaUpload permission to use their contributions in this way. But the Mega company responded by saying that one such cited Universal artist didn’t actually appear in the final edit of the ‘Mega Song’, while it had watertight signed agreements from all the other artists involved.

Universal then officially responded to MegaUpload’s lawsuit by claiming that it had requested the ‘Mega Song’ be removed from YouTube for reasons other than copyright infringement, adding that its agreement with the video site allowed this. The company added that, because the takedown request had been issued under its contract with YouTube, rather than the statutory provisions of the DMCA, there wasn’t a case for saying the music major had inappropriately used the US copyright system.

That led to much chatter about what exactly Universal’s licensing agreement with YouTube said, given the music firm was seemingly claiming it had the contractual power to have anything removed from the YouTube website should it so wish. Of course Universal, as the market leader record company, is an important content provider to both YouTube and its sister Google Music service, as well as being a customer via the VEVO venture, but would Google really give the label a special veto to have any content uploaded to the YouTube site removed?

Well, Google has responded with a resolute “no”. It seems that Universal’s claims regarding its rights to request content be removed from YouTube possibly rely on its lawyers’ interpretation of some pretty standard terms offered to content owners rather than any private additional agreement, and Google doesn’t agree with that interpretation.

As a result, the MegaSong video has been reinstated on YouTube, and yesterday the video site issued this statement to Digital Music News: “Our partners do not have the right to take down videos from YouTube unless they own the rights to them or they are live performances controlled through exclusive agreements with their artists, which is why we reinstated [the 'Mega Song']“.

Whether that statement will have any impact on Universal’s efforts to have MegaUpload’s lawsuit dismissed remains to be seen. Should it look likely that a court might rule Universal did indeed violate the DMCA’s takedown rules, perhaps we’ll see the world’s biggest music company licensing YouTube rival and MegaUpload sister service MegaVideo in a bid to avoid a potentially embarrassing court case. Fun times.

Meanwhile, Digital Music News has also posted a copy of Will.i.am’s one-page contract with MegaUpload in relation to the ‘Mega Song’, following claims by the Black Eyed Pea’s lawyer that his client appeared in the video without permission. Will.i.am’s attorney also reportedly filed a takedown request in relation to the promotional vid, though MegaUpload later said it had spoken to the Pea and he’d said he didn’t know anything about the takedown request issued in his name.

Anyway, you can see the contract Will.i.am seemingly and somewhat strangely put his name to here.

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