YouTube faces $1 billion lawsuit from Pharrell Williams, the Eagles and others

Lawyers demand the removal of 20,000 videos from service

YouTube is facing a $1 billion lawsuit from Pharrell Williams, Eagles and others after lawyers demanded the removal of around 20,000 videos from the video streaming service.

Irving Azoff, founder of new legal group Global Music Rights, which represents up to 40 artists including Pharrell Williams, the Eagles, John Lennon, Chris Cornell and Smokey Robinson, has claimed that YouTube does not have the performance rights to thousands of songs by his clients.

Azoff said that although YouTube may have negotiated deals with the record labels, they didn’t do so with the artists themselves. He told the Hollywood Reporter that his clients want to pursue YouTube, as opposed to other sharing sites, because they have been “least cooperative and the company and our clients feel are the worst offenders”.

Google, which is planning to launch Music Key – its own subscription music service to rival Spotify and Pandora – in the new year, has maintained that YouTube does have the performance rights due to prior deals.

But in a letter to YouTube earlier this month, Global Music Rights’ lawyer Howard King wrote that the service has not provided details of any prior agreements. “Without providing a shred of documentation, you blithely proffer that YouTube can ignore the Notices because it operates under blanket licenses from performing rights organizations other than Global,” King wrote.

“However, you refuse to provide the details of any such license agreements, presumably because no such agreements exist for YouTube’s present uses of the songs in any service, but certainly with respect to its recently added Music Key service.”

NME has contacted YouTube for comment but is yet to receive a response.

Meanwhile, the issue of streaming and rights of musicians has been the subject of widespread debate recently. Earlier this month, it was revealed that Pharrell’s hit single ‘Happy’, which was streamed 43 million times on Pandora in 2014, only yielded $2,700 (£1,732) in royalties.

In his alternative Queen’s speech, Johnny Marr told NME that another streaming service, Spotify, is the “opposite to punk rock” and “hampers new bands”.

“I have no answer to the economic side of the modern music industry, but I do think we certainly shouldn’t stop valuing what bands do,” Marr said. “I don’t like great things being throwaway. Pop culture isn’t just about ‘the music, man’. It’s a way of life, an aesthetic, and it’s not just about pressing a button and getting something entirely for convenience.”