Universal Follows through on Video Lawsuit Threats

Universal Music Group said today it has filed suit against Grouper and Bolt for copyright infringement, reports Reuters. Universal sets its price at (up to) $150,000 per each instance of infringement, plus costs*. This is the first major legal challenge to online video aggregators, and something many assume will be in the cards for YouTube, especially since it gained deep-pocketed parent Google. Mark Cuban must be smirking somewhere.

We had previously gotten riled up about Time Warner pursuing copyright threats against YouTube; this time, it’s a real live lawsuit.
Sites like Grouper (recently bought by Sony), Bolt, and YouTube cite the Digital Millennium Copyright Act as protection for not proactively removing copyrighted content. Instead, the hosts will allow most non-pornographic uploads and act quickly on copyright complaints. YouTube and Google Video have gone the extra mile to cut deals with music labels to allow use of their content. It’s interesting that Grouper was the one to get dinged considering it had shifted its strategy from private P2P to personal video sharing before getting bought.
It’s not clear from the Reuters story whether Universal served Grouper and Bolt with takedown notices before serving them with lawsuits, but clearly the music label is looking for a weak spot wherever it can get it.
*If that number sounds familiar, $150,000 per infringement is the same price the WSJ reported NewsCorp, NBC Universal, and Viacom are seeking per unauthorized video on YouTube.