Universal Suing Music Video Download Sites18 Oct, 2006 By: Erik Gruenwedel
Borrowing a page from litigation that raised public awareness of illegal music file sharing, Universal Music Group, a unit of French-based Vivendi, has filed separate copyright infringement lawsuits against two user-generated video download sites.
The suits, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, allege that Grouper Networks and Bolt Inc. willfully fostered illegal dissemination by users of music videos from recording artists Mariah Carey, 50 Cent, Black Eyed Peas and Nelly Furtado, among others. The suits, which seek a trial and a minimum $150,000 in damages per copyright infraction, said Grouper and Bolt did little to thwart infringement of copyright content by users.
For example, the complaints alleged that Carey's “Shake It Off” video had been viewed without compensation more than 50,000 times on Grouper (1,000 times on Bolt) while embedded with the sites' logos and third-party advertising. Users were encouraged to directly download the video either to a PC, iPod or PlayStation Portable or to e-mail it to friends or post it to other Web sites, including MySpace.
“Like the original [music file-sharing services] Napster, Aimster, KaZaa and Morpheus, Grouper and Bolt allow and facilitate — all in the name of ‘sharing' — the mass infringement of copyrighted works,” said a UMG spokesperson.
The record label said it has embraced innovative ways to bring its music and videos to consumers, but questioned the legality of innovation that breaks the law and “runs roughshod over the rights of content creators.”
“User-generated sites like Grouper and Bolt, that derive so much of their value from the traffic that our videos, recordings and songs generate, cannot reasonably expect to build their business on the backs of our content and the hard work of our artists and songwriters without permission and without in any way compensating the content creators,” UMG said in a statement.
Sony Pictures Entertainment, which in August announced its intention to acquire Grouper.com for $65 million, issued a statement of innocence from Josh Felser, co-founder and CEO of Grouper.
“The lawsuit is without merit, and we expect to prevail,” Fesler said. “Our Web site is protected by federal law, and we're vigilant about taking down copyrighted content when we're properly notified.”
In a message posted on its site, Bolt co-founder Jay Gould urged users to respect copyright material.
“We understand the love you have for your favorite musical artists, but Bolt respects the rights of copyright owners such as Universal Music and their artists, and we ask that you please do so as well by not uploading their videos to Bolt,” Gould said.