Pharell Williams Lawyer Threatens YouTube with $1B Lawsuit

Album Cover/Happy
Album Cover/Happy

A group representing musicians Pharell Williams, the Eagles, and John Lennon, among hundreds of others, is threatening YouTube with an eight-figure lawsuit if the video-sharing giant does not remove the artists’ songs from its website.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the new performance rights organization Global Music Rights, led by music industry titan Irving Azoff, claims that YouYube does not have the rights to host songs by the numerous popular artists the group represents.

In a letter sent this month to YouTube, Global Music Rights attorney Howard King charged:

Without providing a shred of documentation, you blithely proffer that YouTube can ignore the Notices because it operates under blanket licenses from performing rights organizations other than Global. However, you refuse to provide the details of any such license agreements, presumably because no such agreements exist for YouTube’s present uses of the Songs in any service, but certainly with respect to its recently added Music Key service.

For its part, YouTube believes it has the rights to host the songs under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and charged Global Music Rights with acting without the knowledge of its clients. YouTube also wants Global Music Rights to identify each and every URL with infringing material, of which there are likely hundreds of thousands, according to THR.

“This is not your third attempt to circumvent the straightforward DMCA notice-and-takedown process that Congress devised to handle situations like this,” Google attorney David Kramer wrote in letter responding to King.

King fired back at YouTube, telling the Hollywood Reporter that, with the company’s new ContentID software, they have the ability to identify and remove copyright infringing material in a matter of seconds.

“It is disingenuous that they can keep their hands over [their] eyes until we tell them the URL,” King told THR. “They know where it is. We don’t want this to become whack-a-mole.”

With both sides refusing to back down, King told the Hollywood Reporter that the situation could culminate in a costly legal battle. “This will result in someone blinking, and if it’s not them, there will be a billion-dollar copyright infringement lawsuit filed,” King said.



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