Spinrilla, a hip-hop app and website, is facing a copyright infringement lawsuit filed by numerous music industry groups. 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 in many of the songs may not be licensed, which returns us to the antiquated question of whether music samples are protected by copyright infringement 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.
As a user-generated content platform, Spinrilla should have complied with the DMCA. In doing so, the company would’ve obtained blanket immunity from the very infringement claims being asserted in this lawsuit. One suspects the company didn’t speak with a lawyer before launching because the lawsuit alleges two rather fundamental failures when it comes to the DMCA compliance process.
First, music publishers accuse Spinrilla of failing to designate a DMCA agent to receive copyright infringement complaints and failing to register said agent with the Copyright Office. The law is clear on this point reading:
“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 a DMCA agent lose the protections of the DMCA. If, in fact, Spinrilla failed to designate and register an agent, it is an almost unimaginable mistake.
Spinrilla is also alleged to have failed to implement and enforce a repeat infringer policy for its platform. 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, such complaints are delivered to 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 that infringes depending on the facts of the case. If Spinrilla is found to have waived the protections of the DMCA and is further found liable for infringement, the company likely faces a damage award in the millions. Perhaps tens of millions of dollars.
All because someone didn’t take the simple steps to comply with the DMCA.
To be blunt, Spinrilla faces the genuine prospect of being shut down given the potential damage claims. Don’t make the same mistake. Know what is required to comply with the law, and make sure to register an agent with the Copyright Office. Contact us today if you need an agent.
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