An Introduction to TuneSat and Copyright Infringement Notifications
Brief Overview of Copyright Law and Licensing
Copyright law grants property rights to authors/creators of original works of expression. If you compose a new song, you have a copyright property interest in that song. If someone comes along later and copies your work, they have infringed your property interest and you have a statutory remedy against them.
If you, instead, hear a song that you like and you want to use it for your own purposes (i.e. make a copy and publicly perform it), you should generally try and obtain a license prior to doing so. Licensing musical works is a common occurrence and it basically grants the licensee with a limited permission to copy/use some song.
The problem facing authors of works today is that digital media makes copying extremely cheap and extremely attractive. For instance, if I hear a song I like and want to use it for a video I am making, it is tremendously easy to just go ahead and copy and use the song instead of figuring out who owns the rights to the song and negotiating a licensing fee for my use.
Although licensing a work may seem tedious and unnecessary – not doing so can come back to haunt you.
The Rise of TuneSat
TuneSat was founded in 2009 as a song monitoring program. Basically, song-owners hire TuneSat to use its technology to scour television broadcasts and the web to listen for any use of its clients’ songs. When TuneSat identifies a client’s work, it contacts the song-user with an automated “infringement notification.” In this notification, TuneSat’s “Compliance Department” requests proof that the song-user has a license for the work. If not, TuneSat informs the recipient that they are subject to thousands of dollars of fees unless an alternative settlement can be arranged.
While TuneSat’s technology has the capability of protecting copyright holders suffering from rampant infringement, it has also been vilified as a bully targeting users with menacing language and the threat of expensive lawsuits for seemingly minor infringements.
Freeplay & TuneSat
The livelihood of songwriters and musicians have changed drastically in the digitial age. On the one hand, communications breakthroughs including the internet and wireless transmission have made their works available across the globe. On the other hand, the ease with which users can digitally copy and reproduce works undermines profits that would have come from additional sales. Nevertheless, TuneSat’s relationship with FreePlay Music, LLC can be understandably viewed as less than heroic.
For one thing, many people buy computers with “demo” songs already loaded onto them. But while FreePlay may have issued a license for the personal, at-home use and enjoyment of these particular songs; FreePlay has not permitted their copying and any additional uses.
A problem arises when these same people assume they have the rights to use these songs for their media creations – perhaps, let’s say, as background music for their YouTube videos. When this occurs, TuneSat may later identify that its client’s (FreePlay’s) song is being used, and TuneSat will automatically issue these users a letter informing them of their “infringement.”
Intellectual Property Lawyers
Receiving a letter for supposed copyright infringement can be nerve-racking. While copyright rights holders are justified in protected their property rights, they may also pursue their rights erroneously or overzealously. If you find yourself to be the unfortunate recipient of an infringement notice, you should consider contacting an attorney who is familiar with these situations. The attorneys at Revision Legal have successfully represented clients in infringement notice cases and we would be glad to hear from you and offer our help.