Universal Music is now faced with a federal lawsuit accusing it of using underhanded tactics to remove a YouTube video featuring hip-hop stars singing an ode to popular file-sharing service Megaupload.
You've got to admire the sheer audacity of this one. The YouTube video on the right was commissioned by Megaupload to promote its file-sharing service. The video features a glut of hip-hop talent, including Kanye West, Macy Gray and Alicia Keys, serenading us with classic lines such as "I like to use Megaupload," and "M.E.G.A. Upload to me today. Send me a file."
What Megaupload probably didn't tell the performers was that, of its 50 million-plus daily users, a rather large proportion are of the rum, parrots and scurvy appreciating persuasion.
Universal Music quite naturally freaked when it saw some of its biggest names promoting what it claims is a piracy-enabling service. It contacted YouTube, claiming that the video used an unauthorized performance belonging to Gin Wigmore, and promptly had it pulled from the site.
"This is an on-going dispute that surfaced several weeks ago with respect to the unauthorized use of a performance from one of our artists," said a Universal spokesperson. "We heard from a number of our other artists (and their representatives) who told us they've never consented to being portrayed in this video. As a result, at least one of them has already sent a takedown notice for this unauthorized use."
YouTube, like most online service providers, loses its legal immunity for its users actions if it doesn't remove allegedly infringing content when asked to by rights holders. The funny thing is, Gin Wingmore isn't even in the video.
"They were claiming she was in the video when she wasn't," said Megaupload's attorney, Ira Rothken.
Rothken maintains that the stars all knew what they were signing up for, and that Universal Music took down the video illegally. Megaupload is seeking undisclosed damages and wants the video returned to YouTube. The copy above was uploaded by a concerned user.
"How can you claim a copyright in a performance of artists singing that they love Megaupload?" Rothken asked. "It doesn't pass the giggle test. It's a sham."
"There's agreements signed by each of the stars," he added.
A second takedown notice came from will.i.am, bespectacled member of infuriating pop-rap-goblin-horde The Black Eyed Peas. According to his attorney, will.i.am never gave permission for his appearance in the video. Which does seem rather strange considering that, at around the 25 second mark, he stares earnestly into the camera and says "When I gotta' send files across the globe, I use Megaupload." Presumably that just came up in regular conversation.