It looks like YouTube is heading for another music headache and not just because of all those “Shake It Off” covers. The music rights trade group Global Music Rights is threatening YouTube with a massive lawsuit if the video giant doesn’t immediately take down thousands of songs. According to GMR YouTube doesn’t hold the rights for some 20,000 songs, many of which belong to big name artists like Pharell and The Eagles, and even the late John Lennon. The group has threatened YouTube with a lawsuit claiming over $1 billion in lost royalties and punitive damages.
With the launch of their streaming music service last month it seemed like YouTube had finally beaten the music industry into submission. YouTube bested a group of independent European labels shortly before announcing the launch of Music Key. Howeve, this lawsuit may present a bigger challenge. With big names and big dollar signs attached the video giant won’t have the option of strong arming GMR members as they were accused of doing in previous conflicts with labels.
Publicly, YouTube is digging in its heels. The company claims that it does hold all the correct rights to the music in question and has refused to take down any of the disputed content. In the past, YouTube has relied on its role as an influential player in music distribution to influence artists and labels. The threat of having your work pulled from YouTube was enough to send indie labels running to the European commission claiming that YouTube was using unfair bullying tactics to negotiate.
Most artists don’t want to see their work become unavailable on YouTube. They simply want a guarantee that they will be fairly compensated when their work is streamed. YouTube likewise isn’t anxious to see their long awaited streaming music service come out of the gate without the work of some of the world’s most popular artists in their library. Expect this lawsuit and its $1 billion pricetag to evaporate once YouTube and GMR agree to a more reasonable number for compensation.
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