UMG Recordings, Inc. v. Global Eagle Entertainment Inc.

IP Kat recently reported a summary judgement granted in a copyright infringement case involving various record companies and music publishers and an in flight entertainment provider. A motion for summary judgment was brought by various record companies and music publishers which included UMG Recordings, Inc. (“UMG”), Capitol Records, LLC (“EMI”) and Universal Music Publishing Group (“UMPG”) alleging copyright infringement of sound recording, copyright infringement of musical compositions, amongst other assertions against the defendant In-flight Productions (IFP) and parent company Global Eagle Entertainment, Inc, a worldwide provider of in-flight entertainment from movies to songs.

Plaintiffs, the exclusive copyright owners of works including but not limited to sound recordings,  musical  compositions,  and  music videos, alleged that the Defendants which provided in-flight entertainment to various airlines, publicly performed their copyrighted works , including but not limited to sound recordings,  musical  compositions,  and  music videos, for  the  entertainment  of  airline passengers without obtaining necessary license or other authorization to perform the copyrighted works. Defendant as part of its business practice created lists of popular music (“playlists”) in various genres of music. IFP acquired this music included in the playlist by purchasing or obtaining physical CDs or individual digital tracks, including by purchasing them at physical and online retail stores, and copied the physical CDs or individual digital tracks onto its internal hard drives. IFP then mixed the playlist with other programs and sent the same to its overseas office to be encoded or duplicated in accordance with each airline’s technical specifications. Thereby misusing the intellectual property and adversely affecting the profits of the Plaintiffs. Consequently, Plaintiffs sought statutory damages under the Copyright Act, punitive damages and injunctive relief amongst the others.

It is pertinent to state that IFP was aware of the fact that the Plaintiffs copyrighted works were exploited without obtaining their permission or authorization despite which it continued its unauthorized use of Plaintiffs’ works. Although IFP tried to subsequently obtain licenses which it did successfully in the UK but its effort could not materialize in the US. Consequently, Plaintiffs alleged that IFP infringed Plaintiffs’ exclusive reproduction and distribution rights by copying Plaintiffs’ music onto CDs, DVDs, and computer hard drives and distributing them subsequently. IFP in its defense argued that it would be liable for infringement with respect to those works where both the .wav file and the encoded deliverable were created in the United States. IFP further tried to take shelter under the argument that Plaintiffs orally granted IFP non-exclusive licenses because“[t]he parties agreed on the license fee, however, the Court for which held that though the parties discussed various terms, but never reached any final agreements and declined to accept IFP’s contention. IFP from other contentions claimed Plaintiffs’ suit is barred by time, the court declined to accept this contention. The Court having heard all the contentions and taking into consideration the evidences placed on record granted summary judgment to Plaintiffs.

Authored by Bhuvana S. Babu.

Source 1: Summary Judgement
Source 2: