YouTube Network Fullscreen Sued By Music Publishers Over Unlicensed Cover Songs

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The National Music Publishers’ Association, or NMPA, is suing YouTube network Fullscreen for copyright infringement, bringing the company to court primarily over the distribution of unlicensed cover song videos. At the same time, the publisher association has announced a deal in principle with Fullscreen competitor Maker Studios.

Fullscreen is what you’d call a “multichannel network” (MCN) on YouTube, aggregating a large number of independent creators and giving them tools to grow their audiences and better monetize their videos. Today, it’s one of the largest MCNs, with more than 15,000 channels and 2.5 billion views per month, according to the Fullscreen website. That puts it No. 2 behind VEVO in terms of the number of unique viewers, according to comScore’s Video Metrix report.

But some of the content that Fullscreen helps creators distribute and monetize comes in the form of unlicensed covers of popular songs, according to the NMPA. In fact, that’s a problem that NMPA president and CEO David Israelite called “endemic” in the association’s press release. That release claims that MCN channels represent a significant number of total views on YouTube and are “comprised largely of cover song videos.”

Music, of course, is a big part of why people tune in to YouTube. You can see that in the popularity of top channel VEVO, which carries the bulk of licensed music videos from the top recording agencies, as well as Warner Music’s channel, which is also in the top five of all YouTube networks. The NMPA, for its part, wants to ensure that it’s getting paid when one of its artists’ songs is performed to the public — which in this case, means on YouTube.

At the same time that the NMPA announced the lawsuit, it also said that it had reached an agreement in principle with Maker Studios, another one of the big MCNs. The deal, once finalized, will let music publishers get paid for past infringement by Maker partners, and ensure licensing going forward.

The lawsuit comes not long after Fullscreen announced the launch of its Creator Platform to better manage and monetize their channels. One of the features of that platform is the ability to add licensed songs and to enable creators to make their own music available to others on the platform.