US publishers including Warner/Chappell has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Fullscreen, a multi-channel network (MCN) behind some of YouTube’s most popular content.
The National Music Publishers Association describes Fullscreen as a multi-million dollar company that produces, markets, promotes and exploits videos – including music videos – on YouTube.
It alleges that the company directly profits from advertising revenue generated by “unlicensed music videos on their channels but does not compensate songwriters or music publishers”.
Comprised largely of cover song videos, MCN channels represent a significant number of the total views on YouTube, with the largest MCNs receiving hundreds of millions of video views each month.
Fullscreen’s 'FAM' network currently has over 700 musicians on YouTube, many of whom have gained notoriety on the platform by covering famous songs.
“The problem of copyright infringement and unlicensed use of music is endemic to the MCN industry,” said David Israelite, NMPA president and CEO.
“Fullscreen’s success and growth as a digital business is attributable in large part to the prevalence and popularity of its unlicensed music videos. We must stop the trend of ignoring the law, profiting from someone else’s work, then asking forgiveness when caught. It is not only unfair, it is unacceptable.”
Fullscreen has 15,000 YouTube channels with more than 200 million subscribers and averages 36 million viewers responsible for 284 million video views per month in the U.S, according to the NMPA.
“We must build a digital marketplace that can thrive and give music fans what they want, when they want it. Ignoring the law should not be allowed as a business model,” Israelite said.
In February Universal Publishing signed a licensing deal with two multi-channel networks, one being Fullscreen and the other Maker Studios.
Under the deal, it was agreed that revenue would be derived from advertising on both Fullscreen and Maker Studios’ videos and shared between the MCNs, UMPG and its writers.
In exchange, Fullscreen and Maker Studios were granted access to UMPG’s full catalogue of songs.
“We’re delighted to have reached a groundbreaking arrangement with Fullscreen that validates the important contribution of our songwriters to Fullscreen’s music-based programming on YouTube, and enables Fullscreen to fully embrace the many revenue opportunities our songs help to create," said Zach Horowitz, chairman and CEO of UMPG, at the time of the agreement.
The NMPA and Maker Studios have agreed in principle to a settlement regarding similar copyright issues. Once finalised, the settlement will enable music publishers and their songwriting partners to be compensated for past infringement and license Maker going forward, according to the NMPA.