Universal Music accused of using fraudulent DMCA notices as a negotiating tactic in licensing music from other labels

Skepta, a London-based hip-hop artist, uploaded a video for his original song called "Dare to Dream" to YouTube earlier this month. Jimmy Iovine, founder of the Universal-owned label Interscope, heard the song and decided that he'd like to license it for use by Eminem, who is signed to Iovine's label. So far, so good.

But then it gets weird. Iovine reportedly then filed a fraudulent copyright declaration with YouTube, claiming he owned the rights to the song and getting it taken down. Then he approached Skepta and his label to license the song for Eminem's use.

Presumably, the false DMCA declaration (apparently, he filed a non-DMCA copyright notice with YouTube) -- which is illegal as hell -- was used to prevent competitors from bidding against Iovine, or perhaps to prevent the song from becoming overly associated with Skepta.

Whatever the motivations, this demonstrates the pervading mentality regarding copyright takedowns in entertainment companies: they're handy tools for removing anything you don't like from the Internet for an indefinite period, and there's no penalty for perjuring yourself in your notices.

I'm not sure who has standing to pursue Iovine for his alleged fraud. I fear that the only party situated to bring him to justice are Skepta and his label (who are unlikely to pursue a claim against their new business partner). But I hope that YouTube can -- and does -- take action to produce an object lesson that abusing the law to censor the Internet isn't a consequence-free tactic in the normal course of business, but a crime that undermines copyright law itself.

YouTube DMCA Takedown Grabs Track For Eminem


  1. Yeah, people file false claims all the time to get videos taken down they don’t particularly care for. Not sure how illegal it is exactly. But that type of stuff is commonplace at youtube.

    Not by record execs though… it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

  2. That’s so weird, Jimmy Iovine… I remember seeing that name on albums back in the 1970s: He produced The Rasberries. He did production work on John Lennon albums in the ’70s. It was one of those names I always saw while reading liner notes as a teenager. I thought he’d be one of those people who faded over time, and instead he introduces Eminem to Dre, signs GaGa, and is “very active in our music world” as Dick Clark used to put it.

    I’m an old man now, and he’s still young. Is he a bloodsucking vampire?

  3. A proper DMCA section 512 notice must contain a sworn statement made under penalty of perjury. If Iovine issued the DMCA notice under his own name, and it contains a false statement, he committed perjury.

    Perjury in the DMCA context is a federal felony, see 18 USC 1621. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/usc_sec_18_00001621—-000-.html which carries the potential penalty of up to five years in prison.

    That is, if anyone cares to enforce the statute. Someone would need to convince a federal prosecutor to bring charges.

  4. Just another reason to hate on Jimmy Iovine. He laid a layer of suck on American Idol this year. He would have told John Lennon to sing covers of Neil Diamond songs. Die Antwoord should have told him to pound sand.

  5. Perhaps this is a job for LulzSec – they’d teach him a lesson about misuse of the interwebs.

  6. They should never again honor a take down request made by the fraudulent claimant. What an asshole…

  7. I wouldn’t count on Youtube to turn whitehat all of a sudden. They’ve been in bed with the content industry for the longest time, and have no reason to suddenly get out of that bed for… what, ethical thinking or something? To wit, Youtube routinely blocks official NASA videos(!) (as “not available in your country”) based on standard “copyright claims” template by whichever random industry giant you can think of (BMG, EMI, Sony, Universal, …). To be honest, Youtube is unuseable now when you’re not in the US, due to all the blocking. The only way to make Youtube wake up is to boycott them. It has to hurt them where it matters, i.e. ad revenue.

    1. They aren’t much better when you are in the US. They allow folks to create listings of ‘full movie’ for stuff in the theatres that is just the trailer with a link to some pay to stream site and they do nothing. Someone creates a movie review that uses clips from a DVD or a fan video with a commercial song (both of which could easily fall under fair use) and they delete it and threaten to delete the users account. 

  8. Too bad the prosecutors are busy arresting Aaron Swartz, instead of doing something useful like protecting copyright.

  9. And this especially applies to sensitive of politically controversial material, especially certain topics related to the bogus “war on terrorism”.

    1. Hold on, the US Supreme Court says that the Legislature cannot restrict corporate speech….and a perjury brought against a corporation!?
      Please! It is always and ever only the employees – separate legal entities all – which lie.

      The judges have decreed it!

      Corporate speech is un-regulated in the USA, and its truth, or lack thereof, seems to have no legal consequence – for the Corporation itself, that is. they go after the individuals involved, by their personal names…not the name of the Corporation.

      It’s like they have decided to punish only the accessories to the crime, while letting the principal criminal go scot-free.

      I am ignorant – when was the last time any corporation ever got convicted of ANY criminal offense – as distinct from convictions for corp officers, directors and employees, in their personal capacities, and as distinct from merely regulatory fines – in a US (or any Anglo-saxon) Court of Law?

      Corps have legal rights, pursuant to the status as persons, which have been granted (and greatly extended) by the Courts: but they don’t ever get prosecuted for crime.

      Why not?

  10. Jail time for fraud.

    As long as they can pay fines, they laugh it off.

    No more corporate paper puppet.

    Jail time for whoever does the crime AND whoever orders the crime.

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