Universal music files fraudulent copyright complaints with YouTube, censors pro-Megaupload song

Yesterday, I blogged about the tribute raised to Megaupload by several famous recording artists, who objected to their labels' campaign against the service. Overnight, Universal Music filed a series of fraudulent copyright complaints against the song, prompting YouTube to repeatedly remove it, and to threaten to terminate the Megaupload YouTube account for incurring multiple piracy complaints.

Either Universal has done this deliberately, to stifle debate over its policies using false copyright complaints, in which case it would be social suicide for America to pass SOPA and give Universal the power to shut down any website with a fake copyright complaint.

Or perhaps Universal did this through blundering, inexcusable incompetence, a total inability to distinguish between the music it owns and the music everyone else owns. In which case it would be social suicide for America to pass SOPA and give Universal the power to shut down any website with a sloppy, erroneous copyright complaint.

Either way, Universal and its pals have demonstrated their absolute unfitness to wield power over free expression.

“Mega owns everything in this video. And we have signed agreements with every featured artist for this campaign,” Kim told TorrentFreak.

“UMG did something illegal and unfair by reporting Mega’s content to be infringing. They had no right to do that. We reserve our rights to take legal action. But we’d like to give them the opportunity to apologize.”

“UMG is such a rogue label,” Kim added, wholly appreciating the irony.

A few minutes after this exchange Kim contacted us with good news. After filing a YouTube copyright takedown dispute, the video was reinstated. But alas, just seconds later, it was taken down again.

“We filed a dispute, the video came back online and now it’s blocked again by UMG and the automated YouTube system has threatened to block our account for repeat infringement,” Kim explained.

Universal Censors Megaupload Song, Gets Branded a “Rogue Label” (Thanks, anotherfreakinusername!)


    1. hmmm…
      The problem is that the people deciding on X don’t care about what it’ll do, just how many zero’s are on the end of their cheques.

        1. Yeah.  Much more dangerous than in banks or major corporations.

          Oh wait – no it isn’t.  It’s just that in politics we can actually do something about it, while in the rest of our life we just have to either  turn to the government to help or shut up and ignore it.

  1. My thoughts about this takedown went to the new proposed laws as well. If anything, this has shown a clear example of how those laws will be abused and why. Petty and vindictive abuse of power from those who wish to silence critics. And honestly, this is the best thing that could have happened to the song. Instead of a small gesture of approval for upload sites, it is now a visual guide to the future.

  2. FINALLY saw the video. Good God, getting blocked is the best thing that could have happened to it. It is truly terrible.

  3. Well if Megaupload owns the rights they’re now entitled to sue UMG for falsely claiming to own Mega’s IP, and also they now get to throw this in the RIAA’s face every time the two are on opposite sides of court proceedings.

    For the most part I just see this as UMG falling on their own swords out of sheer ineptitude.

  4. A DMCA takedown request must have several things, including

    (v) A statement that the complaining party has a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.

    (vi) A statement that the information in the notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury, that the complaining party is authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.

    (See 17 USC 512(c))

    From what’s reported it seems clear that UMC should not have had a “good faith belief” that the posting was unauthorized, and furthermore, that UMC should be liable for perjury in that the information contained in the takedown notice was not accurate.

    I’d like to see what happens if someone is able to “fire back” at a DMCA takedown notice that violates (v) and (vii).

    1. The trick is that while corporations are frequently considered ‘people’ legally, they are never found guilty of a crime.  No matter how blatantly they commit perjury or how many times they violate the law, they will never be convicted or punished. 

      1. They are punished. I just got an email from Ticketmaster. Thanks to their wrongdoings, I now get $1.50 off the next time I buy a ticket from them. That will show them!

  5. Another round of “Stupid…or Evil!”  On the plus side, it seems to me that Universal’s youtube account should be banned, & all its IPs should be banned, & any sockpuppet account’s IPs from here on out should be banned.  They are clearly trolls.

  6. I was reading on Fark about 204 tech visionaries, some in charge of multinationals, don’t want SOPA.  The people who make content don’t want SOPA.  ISP’s don’t want SOPA.  Software developers don’t want SOPA.  Hell even ebook publishers probably don’t want SOPA.

    In fact the only people who DO want SOPA are the likes of the RIAA, MPAA, BSA and such; organisations who are supposed to be representing the first group who… don’t want this legislation. 

    How much more evidence do people need that these groups aren’t looking out for anyone who actually does something productive?  Seriously, if that doesn’t fit the definition of broken by design nothing does. 

  7. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that one of the artists involved in recording that song signed a contract which grants Universal exclusive rights to release their stuff. If that’s the case, wouldn’t it make the Megaupload agreement a violation of that prior contract and grant some legal validity to Universal’s actions?

    I know, for example, that I’ve seen albums with guest artists in which the guest appears “courtesy of” a different label.

    This isn’t a defense of Universal’s actions, by the way, or of shitty contracts, just general curiosity about the legal consequences of such a situation.

  8. Universal and the other labels should face the music and declare bankruptcy; then a group of media players can band together and snap it up for a song.  I don’t know who’s behind the scenes at Universal conducting this tone deaf media campaign, but I’m sure they’ll come to realize that it won’t play the way they thought, because the internet is getting tired of hearing the RIAA and music industry droning on and on, and we’re all wondering when they’re finally going to change their tune.

  9. I stopped doing business with UMG years ago, after one of their execs went on record accusing anyone that had an mp3 player of being a thief and a criminal. I’d like to thank UMG for refreshing my memory on why I’m ignoring them this holiday music buying season.

  10. “If that’s the case, wouldn’t it make the Megaupload agreement a violation of that prior contract and grant some legal validity to Universal’s actions?”
    I think that you can make a contract where you agree to exclusively assign your copyright interest in works that you produce in the future, but I thought that copyright couldn’t actually be assigned until after the work is created.  If that’s the case, and someone in the video has such an agreement, that artist could be in violation of their contract (where they promise to exclusively assign), but that doesn’t make it a copyright infringement (because the copyright hasn’t been assigned to UMG).
    I am not a lawyer.

  11. As I understand it, the DMCA also describes giving false notification of copyright ownership as a crime, so every single time this automated system re-flags that video…

    1. There’s still a chance they could weasel out of it. Could they claim they had a “good faith belief” that their automated system works?

    2. That’s what I thought, but until I see massive punitive damages being levied against Big Media, I’ll continue to believe that they own the lawmakers in the U.S.

  12. Having just watched the video, I have to say that I’m disappointed. I was expecting something rebellious and political, a protest song railing against current copyright law. Instead, I watched a commercial for Megaupload. It goes to show how little respect mainstream artists have for their own talents. If they are so indignant over UMG’s practices, leave the label and go indie. Lord knows they have the money.

  13. In a way it’s good they are doing this, because it’s undeniable proof that they feel a sense of congressionaly endowed entitlement with virtually no regard for the other end of the transaction.

    Can anyone now seriously doubt that the MAFIAA will view SOPA as carte blanche to act unilaterally to sweepingly remove websites without a shred of due process?

  14. The controversy over this ad smells really contrived to me. Whether the labels are shareholders in MU or the marketing team at MU deliberately baited the takedowns to generate some attention online, I dunno.

  15. That’s OK, this just keeps pushing us all closer and closer to Mesh Internet where we all use encryption and take the majority of the Internet out of the control of the corporatists.

    Keep pushing your luck and pushing us all toward mesh.  I dare you.

  16. The YouTube links in the post have been killed, but yummyfalafel’s Vimeo link is still valid, as of two minute ago my time.  UMG must be the Scientologists (hey, my dictionary doesn’t know that word – excellent!) of the music world, with people watching and waiting to edit and/or censor anything they disapprove of.

    As long as I’m in simile mode, this song is the “We Are The World” of the filesharing world – good intentions, but it suffers from being designed by a committee.

  17. Well, it’s a truly terrible song, so the (most likely false) copyright claims from Universal are the best thing that could’ve happened to it. I bet that if the video wouldn’t have been flagged for copyright infringement, then nobody would care, or even remember it, next month. Now though, it’s food for critics and they’ll feast upon this forever.

    While I’m seeing piracy as a problem and something needing to be done about, I am having even more issues with the corporations and organizations that are fighting against it. If we let all those like Universal have more legal and executive power, then I can guarantee that the majority of those companies will show themselves to not have a shred of decency and morality among themselves.

    So in that vein: thank you for failing again, Universal. You make it so easy to hate you.

  18. In their defense, UMG most likely believes that they own the artists themselves.
    Someone should get them a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation and maybe point out acting like you own people is bad… mmmmkay.

    for the impaired…

  19. From the Megaupload v. UMG complaint:

    11. The MEGAUPLOAD SONG VIDEO features endorsements by numerous famous celebrities and artists, including, but not limited to 1. Kasseem Dean (Swizz Beatz), 2. Kanye West (Kanye West) 3. Mary Jane Blige (Mary Jane Blige) 4. Estelle Swaray (Estelle), 5. Ciara Harris (Ciara), 6. Jayceon Taylor (Game), 7. Carmelo Anthony (Carmelo Anthony), 8. Will Adams (Will.i.am), 9. Kim Kardashian (Kim Kardashian), 10. Sean Combs (Diddy), 11. Alicia Keys, 12. Chris Brown (Chris Brown), 13. Floyd Mayweather (Floyd Mayweather), 14. Jamie Foxx (Jamie Foxx), 15. Jonathan Smith (Lil Jon), 16. Brett Ratner (Brett Ratner ), 17. Serena Williams (Serena Williams), and 18. Russell Simmons (Russell Simmons), all of whom executed full releases of any intellectual property rights to the promotional video, including use of likeness and promotional rights to MEGAUPLOAD.


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