Major Studios Sue ‘Ellen DeGeneres Show’

NASHVILLE (CN) – Arista Music, Capitol Records and 14 other major labels say that Time Warner and other producers of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” refuse to get licenses for recordings of songs they play on the show. The studios say DeGeneres’ producers brushed off their more than 1,000 copyright violations by saying they “did not roll that way.”

     But in their federal complaint, the copyright holders insist, “Regardless of the way they rolled, under the Copyright Act … they needed a license to use the sound recordings lawfully,” and the defendants knew it.
     The studios say Time Warner and its partners are “sophisticated consumers of music.” Time Warner cannot simply declare that is will not seek permission to use recordings of more than 1,000 songs on its show, though it was savvy enough to get licenses for the compositions alone., the studios say.
     Nashville, also known as Music City, USA, is a hub of activity for record companies such as the 16 corporate plaintiffs. “The manufacturing, sale and distribution of recorded music are an important part of the Nashville community, affecting not just record companies, but other businesses as well.”
     “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” is raking in viewers, touting 3 million per episode, and using some of the plaintiffs’ most popular recordings to do so, some of which are not allowed on daytime television at any price, according to the complaint.
     The plaintiffs say their songs are a central part of the show, pointing to DeGeneres’ “dance over” segment, where the comedienne dances through her audience to an interview area after the monologue. The plaintiffs’ recordings are crucial to this segment, which fans demanded back when it was shortened for a brief time in 2006. If that is not proof enough, the show features a disc jockey, and clips from the show full of the studios’ recordings are played on its official Web site, the complaint states.
     The studios seek statutory or compensatory damages for each recording used on the show. They are represented by Timothy Warnock and Tim Harvey of Riley, Warnock & Jacobson in Nashville.
     Here are the parties to the complaint:
     Arista Music; Arista Records LLC; Atlantic Recording Corporation; Big Beat Records Inc.; Capitol Records LLC; Elektra Entertainment Group Inc.; Interscope Records; LaFace Records LLC; Motown Record Company LP; Priority Records LLC; Rhino Entertainment Company; Sire Records Company dba WBR/Sire Ventures Inc.; Sony Music Entertainment; UMG Recordings Inc.; Virgin Records America Inc.; Warner Bros. Records Inc.; Zomba Recording LLC
Time Warner Inc.; Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.; Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution; Warner Bros. Television; Telepictures Productions Inc.; WAD Productions Inc. dba The Ellen DeGeneres Show; and A Very Good Production.

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