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Freeplay Music calls Ford’s “false advertising” claim in copyright dispute “absurd”

By | Published on Monday 12 October 2020

Freeplay Music

Production music company Freeplay has hit back at the Ford motor company in an ongoing dispute over the latter’s use of the former’s music without licence. Freeplay says that Ford, unable to deny its copyright infringement claims, is instead trying to “abuse and distort consumer protection laws”.

Freeplay Music sued Ford earlier this year, accusing the car maker of using tracks from its library in promotional videos online without securing the appropriate licences. That, it said, was wilful copyright infringement on the part of the car company and it should therefore be awarded statutory damages of $150,000 for each uncleared track that was used.

Ford formally responded to the lawsuit last month. It raised some jurisdiction issues, though much of is response was focused on counterclaims that basically accused Freeplay of false advertising.

Ford argued that Freeplay’s name and marketing communications are designed to trick people into thinking that they can use its music free of charge, when in fact in most uses of that music require buying a licence. Freeplay’s aim, Ford claimed, was to confuse people, encourage them to use music from its library and then threaten to sue for copyright infringement.

The free bit of Freeplay relates to when people exploit its music in user-generated content on YouTube, where the company can generate income by seeking royalties from the Google site itself through the Content ID system. Other uses of Freeplay’s music are not free, with a pretty clearly labelled pricing page on the firm’s website outlining the costs of its other licences.

However, Ford argued, that pricing page was only added to Freeplay’s site in 2018, and prior to that the unfreeness of Freeplay’s free music was not so clearly sign-posted and was instead buried within some tedious terms and conditions.

But, Freeplay states in a new legal filing with the courts seeking to have Ford’s counterclaims dismissed, the car maker’s arguments are weak, unsubstantiated and disingenuous.

Ford, the new legal filing reckons “seeks to abuse and distort consumer protection laws in the misplaced attempt to excuse years of willful and continuous infringements of Freeplay Music’s copyright registered works. Ford, a sophisticated corporation with global outreach, claims that Freeplay somehow tricked it, as part of an elaborate scheme, into exploiting Freeplay’s catalogue of works without entering into a licence or paying licensing fees”.

“Ford’s only ‘support’ for its conspiracy is a website banner uploaded years after Ford began exploiting Freeplay’s catalogue, despite the fact that Freeplay has issued millions of licences without licensees having any trouble understanding the need to enter into such licences to exploit Freeplay’s copyrighted works. Ford also disingenuously brings its counterclaims, knowing full well that other courts have summarily dismissed virtually identical claims brought by other infringers”.

“Despite this”, the legal filing adds, “Ford has brought frivolous counterclaims for which it lacks standing and which fail as a matter of law. Each of these counterclaims should be dismissed”.

Commenting on the new filing, the lawyer representing Freeplay, Richard Busch, told CMU: “While generally speaking everything we have to say is in our motion to dismiss, it bears noting that Freeplay Music’s website is not only clear that companies like Ford must enter into licences to use Freeplay’s works, but millions of licensees have had no problem understanding Freeplay’s licences. Ford’s counterclaim claiming that they were somehow tricked is therefore absurd, and we made that clear in our motion to dismiss”.

Let’s now see how Ford responds.