Court Orders Labels to Stop “Pirate” Advert Meddling

A leading member of the IFPI in Germany has suffered a setback with its new strategy for dealing with allegedly infringing sites. Following an attempt to pressure advertisers into abandoning popular YouTube ripping service YouTube-MP3, the site has obtained a court injunction which orders the 300-label group to cease and desist on pain of prison sentences and fines of up to 250,000 euros ($340,550).

bvmiWith both Hollywood and the major recording labels seemingly taking a step back from major legal action against sites they claim are infringing on their rights, some other mechanism would clearly have to take its place.

Currently in fashion is the voluntary agreement, whereby companies and organizations with an interest in the entertainment industry ecosystem are encouraged to enter into anti-piracy collaborations. The so-called six-strikes scheme in the United States is probably the most prominent example, although there is another with more global reach.

Advertising is what keeps millions of websites alive today and that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the entertainment industries. For some time they have been putting well-known companies and agencies under pressure not to place their ads on so-called pirate sites, and not without success. The ultimate aim is that with no financing, sites of which the entertainment companies disapprove will wither and die.

One group employing such a strategy is BVMI (Federal Music Industry Association). This RIAA-style IFPI member in Germany has around 300 label members which together dominate around 90% of the local music market. In its quest to bring the very popular YouTube-MP3 ripping site to its knees, BVMI recently approached the site’s advertisers in the hope that a few choice words would cause them to abandon their business partner.

“The lawyers of BVMI in Germany sent letters to business partners of mine to notify them that they are ‘cooperating with a service that is clearly illegal’ and asked them to cease their cooperation immediately,” YouTube-MP3 owner Philip Matesanz informs TorrentFreak.

YouTube-MP3

Matesanz says he obtained a copy of BVMI’s letter sent to one of his business associates and decided to take immediate action.

“We think that the behavior of the music industry and its spreading of false rumors violates several laws including anti-trust law,” he explains.

YouTube-MP3 acted quickly against BVMI. The letter seen by the site was sent in the first days of last month and by December 13, 2013 a motion had been filed with the anti-trust chamber at the district court of Berlin. Just seven days later the court handed down its ruling.

“The defendant [BVMI]….has encouraged the recipient of its letter sent on the 3rd of December 2013 to end its business relationship or rather stop buying advertisements on the website of the plaintiff [YouTube-MP3] and therefore acted with the intention to illegitimately disrupt its business,” the three judges of the chamber wrote in their ruling.

“The illegitimacy of the disruption by evaluating the interests of both parties arises from the wording of the letter by which the defendant wants to make the recipient believe that the service of the plaintiff is without a doubt illegal and therefore the recipient must end its business partnership with the plaintiff. As a matter of fact the legal situation is not as obvious as the defendant concludes.”

The judges ordered BVMI to immediately cease and desist from their actions. The group was further warned that a failure to comply could see its board of directors subjected to prison sentences or have fines as high as 250,000 euros ($340,550) imposed for every violation of the order.

Matesanz says that holding the music business to account over its meddling via anti-trust legislation is an important step forward.

“What would happen if gas manufacturers like SHELL engaged in talks with financial institutions to make sure they won’t work with producers of electric cars, talk with ad-agencies to make sure electric car manufactures won’t advertise its products and so on? The situation is pretty absurd,” he concludes.

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