Even as Congress works to pass new legislation that would address digital music licensing and streaming, record labels and music publishers are still filing mass amounts of copyright infringement lawsuits and takedown requests with the latest target being podcasts. The PokerNews podcast is currently one of the more high-profile copyright infringement cases involving a poker podcast allegedly using unlicensed music recordings.
As Podcasts Gain Recognition, Music Companies Discover Copyright Infringement
In the latest lawsuit, the music companies and publishing labels have sued the PokerNews podcast over the broadcast of several unlicensed recordings, requesting damages in the millions of dollars range. While music companies generally argue that content creators, podcasts, streamers, etc., simply need to pay licensing fees to use popular music in their broadcasts, new content creators often fail to secure the proper licensing agreements either out of ignorance or a lack of funds.
While it is not uncommon for many podcasts, streaming services, and user-generated content to use popular music to liven up their content, it often takes a website or content creator a certain amount of time to generate enough fame, or some would argue infamy, before music companies become aware of potentially infringing use.
Music Streaming in PokerNews Podcast Claimed to be Willful and Deliberate
In the particular case at hand, the record labels and music companies argue that the PokerNews podcast not only uses unlicensed music, but because these podcasts are available via their website and mobile app, there is actual significant broadcast and unauthorized use of unlicensed music. The music companies also note, in their complaint, that they notified PokerNews’ parent company, iBus Media, of the infringing use years ago. And as such, due to the continued use, the music companies claim they are entitled to enhanced damages because the infringement is willful and deliberate.
In contrast to other podcasts and streamers, however, the music companies note that PokerNews has made substantial profits from their unlicensed use and such use is causing irreparable harm. The music companies argue that the copyrighted works are actually “prominently” featured with the intention to make the podcasts more palatable to listeners, and as a result, the unauthorized use drives traffic and increases profit for the PokerNews podcast.
Music Companies Seek Statutory Damages Against PokerNews Podcast
Even as PokerNews says they are working to address the issue, the music companies are still demanding the traditional $150,000 in statutory damages per infringed work. At least forty-six works are listed in the complaint, which would total damages beyond $6 million, with the music companies retaining the right to amend the complaint to include more works as the suit continues. In the meantime, the music companies have asked the court for a permanent injunction in order to prevent further use and profit from the alleged unlicensed music streaming.
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Also published on Medium.