YouTube faces $1bn song lawsuit

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Music mogul Irving Azoff – sometimes referred to as the most powerful person in the industry – has threatened YouTube with a billion-dollar lawsuit over song rights.

The former Live Nation, Ticketmaster and Clear Channel boss, who’s also managed Van Halen, Journey, the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and many others, says his new company owns the rights to over 20,000 tracks which the video service is using without permission.

His new firm, Global Music Rights, looks after material written by John Lennon, Chris Cornell and many others.

Asked why he’s chasing YouTube rather than other streaming services, Azoff tells the Hollywood Reporter: “They are the ones that have been lease cooperative, and the company our clients feel are the worst offenders. It’s also their attitude.”

In a lawyer’s letter Global Music Rights tell YouTube: “Without providing a shred of documentation you proffer that YouTube can operate under blanket licenses from rights organisations other than Global. You refuse to provide details of any such license agreements – presumably because no such agreements exist.”

Google, owners of YouTube, have responded by saying they’re only legally required to act over copyright breaches if the victim identifies a breach and provides the URL of the offending stream. They call Global’s position “misguided” and add: “This is your third attempt to circumvent the straightforward notice-and-takedown process.”

But Azoff’s attorney Howard King says: “It’s disingenuous that they can keep hands over eyes until we tell them the URL. They know where it is – we don’t want this to become whack-a-mole.”

He says of YouTube’s ContentID technology: “They can find a sound recordings by the Eagles and program it to remove them in a millisecond.”

King adds: “This will result in someone blinking. If it’s not them, there will be a billion-dollar copyright infringement lawsuit. Music services will be adversely impacted if they let this go to adjudication. It seems silly there would let this be a test case.”