The strange battle rages on between Megaworld and Universal Music Group. After releasing a celebrity-crammed video for its " MegaUpload Song" last Friday - which shows Kanye West, Will.I.Am, Jamie Foxx, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Alicia Keys, Chris Brown and more lauding the service - cyberlocker giant Megaworld (owner of MegaUpload, Megavideo, Megalive and more) has been tangled in a legal battle with Universal Music Group, which it has accused of abusing the DMCA takedown process to have the clip wiped from the Internet.
The Hong Kong-based conglomerate, which traffics as one of the most visited cloud storage sites on the Internet, appears to be ahead in its latest effort to combat UMG - at least at the moment. After filing a lawsuit on Monday, as well as a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the corporation yesterday, on Thursday a judge gave Universal 24 hours to explain its takedown initiatives.
According to filed court documents, MegaUpload claims that Universal is stifling its right to free speech and has "chosen to sabotage MegaUpload's promotional campaign, effectively censoring our ability to convey our message with our own original content, including that a significant number of today's top recording artists actively support our services."
The site has come under fire for serving as a medium for the proliferation of illegal content, facing several lawsuits over copyright infringement and most recently settling a copyright suit with porn studio Perfect 10 for copyright violations.
MegaUpload attorney Ira Rothken told Billboard.biz that he deems the takedown efforts a "sham," referring to UMG's alleged intention to suppress the video's virality as one of disdain. "It looks to me is that UMG is willing to use improper means to try getting an advantage over companies they don't like," he says. "MegaUpload is actually interested in ultimately trying to get along with companies like UMG for the benefit of artists and for the benefit for the public as a whole."
Rothken asserts that artists in the video willingly agreed and signed contracts to have their likeness included in "just about any kind of medium, whether it's on or off the website." In a statement earlier this week, UMG claimed that the artists never consented to being portrayed in the clip, and "at least one of them" has sent takedown notices to have the clip pulled from streaming services. Black Eyed Peas front man Will.I.Am was named by his attorney as an artist who initiated takedown, though MegaUpload CIO Kim Dotcom told TorrentFreak.com that he spoke with Will, who blamed the takedown on the attorney. At press time, Will.I.Am's rep had not responded to Billboard.biz's request for comment.
To emphasize his point, Rothken publicly posted evidence from the case -- including a signed contract from Will.I.Am, dated September 28, 2011 -- on his firm's website. But some have speculated that celebrities may have been misled as to the nature of the viral campaign and what exactly they were signing. According to Rothken, Swizz Beatz, who is involved in the company to an extent that was unclear at press time, helped to actively recruit the talent along with several others. "This is a major effort to find top talent who would be interested in voicing their support for MegaUpload," says Rothken.
"MegaUpload Song," which was released in conjunction with its music video, is slated for inclusion on Dotcom's upcoming album. Printz Board, who produced the single, says that he crafted the song without any knowledge of the celebrity endorsements that would eventually make the video.
"It started out as we're doing Kim's entire album and producing it. As we were going along, he was like, 'You know what? We need a song for the website, MegaUpload. I want to do something positive and upbeat,'" says Printz Board, who has worked extensively with the Black Eyed Peas and plans to record his own album. "We will be releasing more videos with tracks that I've written. We have a lot of cool stuff that I'm not at liberty to say yet, but I definitely will say that within the next year, we're definitely going to be penning some hits. This 'Mega' song has a lot of hits, but we're going to be getting even more."
Dotcom's foray into music comes on the heels of more than half-decade of success with MegaUpload, founded in 2005. According to traffic analysis site Alexa.com, MegaUpload now ranks at number 76 on the list of most visited site in the world, second in its category only to cloud storage competitor Mediafire, which lodges four spots ahead.
Though MegaUpload is suing UMG for unspecified damages, the company hopes to continue its viral campaign with "MegaUpload Song" and have the court rule in their favor. For now, visitors can view the video on MegaUpload.com and decide whether or not UMG is infringing on their rights to free speech.
"They can watch it and they can make a decision for themselves as to whether UMG is asserting UMG's copyrights in good faith or if they're trying to chill a message they disagree with," he says. "UMG cannot disavow the presence of signed, written agreements of people who appeared in the video. For us, it all adds up to one thing: UMG is just trying to figure out a way to wiggle out of wrongful conduct."
A rep for UMG declined to comment on the situation beyond the company's statement earlier this week.