Universal Music has filed a lawsuit against MySpace, accusing the popular social-networking site of copyright infringement. At issue are the thousands of music videos uploaded by MySpace users. In its complaint filed in the US District Court for the Central District of California, Universal accuses MySpace of complicity in its users’ infringement by reformatting the videos for playback once they are uploaded.
The lawsuit pits two titans against one another. MySpace is owned by News Corp., which counts Fox and DirecTV among its assets. Universal is a property of French company Vivendi Group. Given the parties involved, this battle could prove to be a long and costly one, no matter what the outcome. MySpace characterized the lawsuit as “meritless” in a press release, saying that it does not “induce, encourage or condone copyright violation in any way”.
While there have been few direct hints that Universal was thinking about targeting MySpace, the record label has made it clear that it had no use for sites that host music videos without its permission. Prior to the Google acquisition of YouTube, Universal CEO Doug Morris accused the popular video-sharing site of massive copyright infringement, saying that they owed the label "millions of dollars."
On the morning of the Google-YouTube deal, Universal—along with Sony BMG and CBS—signed a licensing agreement with YouTube. If MySpace were to sign a similar agreement with the label, there is little doubt that the lawsuit would disappear.
MySpace is likely to use the safe harbor provision of the DMCA as a linchpin of its defense. Under the safe harbor, ISPs and web site operators are not liable for the infringing behaviors of their users, as long as they promptly comply with takedown notices issued by rights-holders. Unlike YouTube, whose business model some would argue is based on copyright infringement, MySpace is primarily a social networking site and may be able to make the argument that it doesn’t profit directly from uploaded music videos. Stay tuned.