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Sunday, June 16, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Download Site Called a Hidden Shakedown

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Freeplay Music misleads people by claiming that its music downloads are free, then "traps the consumer" by demanding "outrageous license fees" for the music, a digital content company claims in court.

Collective Digital Studio sued Freeplay Music on Feb. 9 in Federal Court.

Collective Digital Studio oversees over 600 channels on YouTube and prides itself on producing and marketing "intellectual property across multiple platforms," according to its website.

Freeplay, founded in 2001, describes itself on its own Website as "one of the most trusted production music libraries in the world."

But Collective Digital Studio claims in the lawsuit that Freeplay is actually a copyright troll running a "'bait and switch' followed by extortion."

Freeplay entices consumers with promises of free music, which it specifically states can be used to make YouTube videos, according to the complaint.

But when people use the music in a video or for anything else, Freeplay "contacts the consumer and demands a license fee for the allegedly unauthorized use of copyrighted material," the complaint states.

Most content owners who catch people using their content without permission send them a demand to remove it, but Freeplay "sends the individual consumer a shakedown demand, threatening litigation if the consumer does not pay" the license fee, according to the complaint.

These demands are usually sent by TuneSat, a supposedly third-party company that monitors the Internet for copyright infringement on Freeplay's behalf. But both companies are owned by Freeplay's CEO, Scott Schreer, and "coordinate with one another in this deceptive scheme perpetrated on content creators," the complaint states.

To make matters worse, Collective Digital Studio claims, Freeplay and TuneSat do not even tell consumers which songs they supposedly used without permission.

"This is not how a business that wishes to legitimately license and protect its content would behave," the complaint states. "But Freeplay is not really in the content license business. Freeplay conducts its business in a very different manner - a 'bait and switch' followed by extortion."

Collective Digital claims that Freeplay makes a big chunk of its profits from threatening to sue people for using its music and then charging much more than a typical license fee for the content they downloaded and used.

"Consumers, including struggling artists and musicians, drawn to Freeplay by the promise of 'free' music, generally lack the financial wherewithal to seriously challenge Freeplay's shakedown tactics," the complaint states.

Freeplay even posts tools on its website to help people create content using its music, according to the complaint.

But in October 2014, it changed its terms of use to ban the use of its music on YouTube multichannel networks, and started sending license fee demands to people who had uploaded content onto YouTube through these networks, Collective Digital claims.

"Moreover, following October 2014, Freeplay began issuing aggressive demands to numerous operators of YouTube MCNs [multichannel networks] - entities that had never subscribed to Freeplay's service, downloaded Freeplay's music, or otherwise agreed to any of Freeplay's terms and conditions," according to the complaint. Freeplay accused Collective Digital Studio of using Freeplay's music without permission, but Collective Digital says it "firmly denies" infringing on any of Freeplay's alleged copyrights.

Freeplay's attorney Oren Warshavsky, with Baker Hostetler, told Courthouse News in an email: "Freeplay has received the complaints and we are preparing a response that will clearly demonstrate that the allegations and characterizations in the complaints are baseless. Freeplay intends to zealously protect its rights and reputation and is committed to doing the same for the artists it represents."

Collective Digital seeks declaratory judgment that it is not infringing on any of Freeplay's valid copyrights or encouraging others to infringe on those copyrights, restitution for unfair business practices and an injunction.

It is represented by Bryan J. Freedman with Freedman & Taitelman.

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