Freeplay Music Files Counterclaim Against Machinima, Collective Digital Studios

Last month, YouTube multi-channel network Machinima sued Freeplay Music for allegedly engaging them in a "bait-and-switch" scheme, offering them free usage of songs from their library and then asking them to pay for them. Now, Freeplay Music has filed a counterclaim that Machinima and Collective Digital Studios (CDS) used their tracks without properly licensing them, following another related suit against MCNs Maker Studios, Awesomeness and Big Frame and BroadbandTV Corp.

With a network of 32,000 channels, Machinima's 4 billion videos have generated 74 billion views and 440 million subscribers; though also one of the larger YouTube MCNs, CDS is still much smaller, with over 600 channels generationg nearly a billion views a month. Freeplay's suit alleges that 87 of their copyrighted musical works have been used without authorization 530 times (CDS was accused of 60 unauthorized uses of at least 42 songs in Freeplay's catalog, which consists mostly of background music), and when the company demanded appropriate compensation from both companies, the MCN accused them of being so-called "copyright trolls," an entity that aggressively enforces licensing solely to obtain money from the litigation process.

It's a claim Freeplay founder and CEO Scott Schreer denies, arguing that the company's terms of use -- 15,000 of their 50,000-plus song catalog is available for license, and under 2,000 can be used for free -- are clearly outlined on its site. "We were negotiating in good faith with every intention of reaching an amicable resolution," he tells Billboard. "This fight was brought to us."

Adds Jeff Price, founder of royalty collection agency Audiam and a friend of Schreer's (who is also an investor in Audiam, and heads content identification company TuneSat, which was responsible for requesting appropriate compensation from the MCNs), "We discovered through Audiam that a number of MCNs like Machinima use music without a license. We've seen this ourselves -- the NMPA sued Fullscreen about this very issue. It's endemic as there is a mad rush to become the leader of an emerging space in order to reap a financial exit. In the rush, it appears companies sometimes cut corners."

From all the MCNs it has filed suits against, Freeplay is demanding that a trial be held to determine that CDS and Machinima willfully infringed its copyrights, prevent them from doing so in the future, and to pay them appropriate damages. 


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