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Universal Gets MegaUpload Video — and a News Story About It — Yanked from YouTube

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As the saga between Universal Music Group (UMG) and MegaUpload continues, YouTube is positioned right in the middle, and Tech News Today has been caught in the crossfire.

MegaUpload is an online file storage, sharing, and delivery service; recently it posted Mega Song, a promotional video featuring Kanye West,, and Mary J. Blige, among others, on YouTube:

UMG is apparently not a fan of MegaUpload; many in the music industry believe the service encourages piracy, or illegal file-sharing among its users.

So upon release of Mega Song, UMG asked YouTube to take down the video citing a copyright violation, which YouTube did. MegaUpload countered that Universal owns no rights in the song, that they had signed releases from everyone who appeared in the video, and that Universal abused the provisions in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in requesting removal of the video from YouTube. In fact, MegaUpload has sued UMG over the incident.

According to the CMU Website, Universal initially responded that it didn’t request removal based on a DMCA copyright infringement allegation but based on its contract with YouTube, which allows such removal requests. But then, as reported by Wired, in its official court response, UMG admitted it used YouTube’s internal Content Management System (CMS) to have the content removed, through which a user must essentially allege a copyright violation.

What does YouTube say? The service has put the video back up and released the following statement:

Our partners do not have the right to take down videos from YouTube unless they own the rights to them or they are live performances controlled through exclusive agreements with their artists, which is why we reinstated [the 'Mega Song'].

But that’s not all. Universal also got YouTube to pull down an episode of Tech News Today for reporting on this story and using clips of the “Mega Song” video. As noted by The Verge, such use of copyrighted material for news programs is generally considered “fair” and acceptable under copyright law—but the question still remains, does UMG even *have* any copyright rights in Mega Song?

YouTube put the video of the newscast back up when Tech News Today complained of the decision. Then Universal filed—get this—a DMCA takedown request. So with that request, Universal must be alleging it has copyright rights in the content of the Mega Song video, right?

With the DMCA takedown request, the video automatically came down, and although Tech News Today host Tom Merritt filed a counter-notice, as of this writing, Episode 391 is still not up. Per DMCA policy, the contested video will stay down for at least 10 days, but as Merrit told The Verge, “In 10 days a daily news show is worthless . . . so Universal was able to censor this episode of Tech News Today.”

It’s hard to imagine why UMG would want to create even more publicity for MegaUpload by having not one but two videos pulled from YouTube to which the group doesn’t seem to own copyright. Yet that seems to be the net result of this whole thing as tech and legal circles, at least, have been talking about it for a week — and UMG really doesn’t come out looking too good.

What do you think of this whole saga?

We’ll keep you posted on any updates.

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December 21st, 2011 at 10:19 am