December 12, 2011 2:07pm PT by Eriq Gardner
Will.i.am Sends Takedown Notice Over Megaupload 'Endorsement' Video (Exclusive)
Late last week, a surprising music video was released that featured many superstar recording acts and other celebrities endorsing Megaupload, a video-hosting website that is near the top of the enemy's list for many in the entertainment industry. The video soon was removed from YouTube after a takedown notice was sent, prompting Megaupload to sue Universal Music for copyright misrepresentation.
We've confirmed that UMG did flag the "Megaupload Mega Song" for copyright abuse. But the label wasn't the only entity to complain to YouTube. Turns out that some of the stars of the video were unhappy about having their likenesses and performances used by the company in the music video. One of those artists, Will.I.Am, also sent YouTube a takedown request.
Did Megaupload splice together the endorsements of various stars, including Sean "Diddy" Combs and Kim Kardashian, without their knowledge? Hmmm...
On Friday, the removal of the "Megaupload Mega Song" quickly became a trending topic on Twitter. Megaupload, a Hong Kong-based entity that recently was a target of an anti-piracy advertisement by the entertainment lobby, took the opportunity to play victim.
“Let us be clear: Nothing in our song or the video belongs to Universal Music Group. We have signed agreements with all artists endorsing Megaupload,” Megaupload CEO David Robb told TorrentFreak. "“Regrettably, we are being attacked and labeled as a ‘rogue operator’ by organizations like the RIAA and the MPAA."
Universal has confirmed for us that the video was removed at its bequest over an unauthorized performance of one of its artists, Gin Wigmore. But we've also learned that Ken Hertz, attorney for Will.I.Am, also filed a takedown request last week with YouTube.
What's going on here?
Hertz says that like many of the artists who appear in the video, his client had never consented to the "Megaupload Mega Song."
UMG echoes that sentiment. “This is an on-going dispute that surfaced several weeks ago with respect to the unauthorized use of a performance from one of our artists," a UMG spokesperson tells us. "We heard from a number of our other artists and their representatives who told us they’ve never consented to being portrayed in this video."
But Megaupload attorney Ira Rothken, who filed a lawsuit against UMG today, says Will.i.am and other artists did consent to their use: "UMG didn't do proper due diligence before sending the takedown notice....And each of the other artists, including Will.i.am signed a broad written agreement allowing the use of their likeness and their statements in the context of the video."
*post has been updated