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Freeplay sues Ford in $8.1 million copyright lawsuit

By | Published on Monday 20 April 2020

Freeplay Music

American production music library Freeplay Music has sued the Ford motor company seeking at least $8.1 million in damages. It accuses the car maker of using its music in promotional content without permission.

Despite having the word “free” in its name – and bragging about how it offers “over 50,000 songs free for YouTube and more” on its home page – Freeplay charges for the commercial use of its music like any other conventional production music library.

The “free” bit that’s bigged up on the home page relates to a specific service for individuals posting videos onto YouTube. But the website stresses that this only applies to “non-revenue generating personal videos” that are only published on the Google video site. In that scenario Freeplay’s music can be used for free, with it subsequently generating royalties for itself via YouTube’s Content ID platform if and when those personal videos are played.

That said, a licence is still required even for free usage of the music. And for all other uses – including when businesses post videos to YouTube – fees must also be paid.

However, Ford – Freeplay alleges in a lawsuit filed last week – used its tracks without seeking any licence or paying any royalties. Bad Ford! The alleged infringement was first spotted by audio-recognition platform TuneSat, and Freeplay says it has since identified 54 of its tracks being used in promotional content put out by Ford. That said, that could just be the tip of the iceberg.

The music firm adds in its legal filing that “there are likely many other unauthorised uses that have not yet been discovered. For Freeplay to be able to find every use of [its] works on the internet would be impossible. It is nothing short of a miracle that Freeplay has discovered those involved herein. Finding these infringements is akin to finding a needle in a haystack”.

“Defendant apparently counted on the difficulty of being caught in deciding to engage in this massive wilful copyright infringement”, it went on.

As for damages, Freeplay reckons it should get the maximum statutory damages allowed under US copyright law – ie $150,000 per infringement – hence the eight million total.

“In light of defendant’s blatant and wilful copyright infringement”, the lawsuit says, “anything less than the maximum statutory award of $150,000.00 per infringed work would not get the attention of a multi-billion dollar corporation that continues to commit widespread infringement. Anything less than the maximum in statutory damages would also not deter future infringement”.

Ford is yet to comment.