EMI Music imprints Capitol, Caroline, and Virgin, and EMI Music Publishing have recently filed a lawsuit against Vimeo.com (a video sharing website that falls under a division of online media conglomerate IAC). In the murky areas of copyright law, this is a significant development because it looks into the yet unaddressed issue of fans uploading videos that have copyrighted content (mostly audio) in it.
EMI’s suit will tackle two primary concerns. The first is whether video sharing websites are liable for copyright infringement. This is keeping in mind that they allow, and profit from, user-uploaded copyrighted content.
The second concern is whether lip dubs, and similar videos, are cases of copyright infringement. (Lip dubs are videos in which people lip synch to professional recordings.)
Most labels have agreements with YouTube, that enables sharing of revenue gained from such videos. However, not all labels have been able to make such agreements, and not all video sharing sites have been included in such deals so far.
The other side states that fan-made videos are examples of fair use, tolerated under copyright law as an accommodation to noncommercial, transformative creativity. However, as EMI duly points out Vimeo.com is anything but noncommercial.
This area of copyright has few precedents in terms of law. Besides the EMI suit, there are other suits lined up in 2010 that might possibly bring clarity to these issues. Examples are Stephanie Lenz’s lawsuit where she is fighting UMG for taking down a YouTube video of her toddler son dancing to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy”. Also in line is Don Henley’s action against U.S. Senate candidate Chuck DeVore (R-Calif.) for using “The Boys of Summer” and “All She Wants to Do Is Dance” in “parody” political videos.