Numerous music industry groups have filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Spinrilla, which provides a hip-hop user-generated content platform. Spinrilla is claiming the DMCA safe harbor protects it, but the company may have a problem. The suing parties are alleging Spinrilla failed to comply with the DMCA and waived the protections of the law. If true, Spinrills is in for a world of hurt.
Spinrilla is a classic user-generated content digital platform. The company allows approved hip-hop artists to upload mixtape recordings for others to listen to and download. The small potential problem is the music sampled by users in many of the songs may not be licensed from the original artists. Yes, we are returning to the antiquated question of whether copyright law applies to music samples or not? In pursuing the current lawsuit, music publishing groups such as Sony Music are taking the position that copyright infringement is, indeed, going down.
Spinrilla should have complied with the DMCA. The company would’ve obtained blanket immunity from the very infringement claim publishers are asserting in this lawsuit. One suspects the company didn’t speak with a lawyer before launching because the lawsuit alleges two rather fundamental DMCA failures.
Music Publisher Infringement Claims
First, music publishers accuse Spinrilla of failing to meet the DMCA agent requirements of the law. A party must designate a DMCA agent to receive copyright infringement complaints and register said agent with the Copyright Office. The law is clear on this point:
“Designated agent. – The limitations on liability established in this subsection apply to a service provider only if the service provider has designated an agent to receive notifications of claimed infringement…by making available through its service, including on its website in a location accessible to the public, and by providing to the Copyright Office, substantially the following information:
(A) the name, address, phone number, and electronic mail address of the agent.”
Historically, courts have ruled websites and apps that do not register an agent lose the immunity provided under the DMCA. If Spinrilla failed to designate and register an agent, it is an almost unimaginable mistake by the company.
Music publishers also allege Spinrilla failed to implement and enforce a repeat infringer policy. Defending this claim may be a bit easier for an odd reason. If Spinrilla failed to designate a DMCA agent, the question then becomes what constitutes proper service of a copyright infringement complaint on the company? Typically, copyright holders serve such complaints on the agent. If there is no agent, then Spinrilla can argue it technically isn’t in violation of the repeat infringer compliance requirement since there was no established method for music publishers to serve notice.
What does all of this mean from a monetary perspective? Spinrilla appears to have an inventory of hundreds, if not thousands, of music recordings on its platform. Copyright infringement damages range from $200 to $150,000 per recording depending on the facts of the case. The company likely faces a damage award in the millions if the court finds it waived the DMCA protections and infringed on the copyright of others. Perhaps tens of millions of dollars – all because someone didn’t take the simple steps to comply with the DMCA.
To be blunt, a massive damage award by a jury or judge could bankrupt Spinrilla. Don’t make the same mistake. Make sure you know what is required to comply with the law. You should designate and register an agent with the Copyright Office.
Contact us today if you need an agent.
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