Videos of virtual unknowns belting out Top-40 hits are some of the most popular content on YouTube. However, a recent copyright suit calls into question their legality.

The National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) alleges that Fullscreen, Inc., a multi-channel network (MCN) that produces some of YouTube’s most popular channels, has failed to obtain the proper licenses for music and lyrics featured in its YouTube content. According to the NMPA, “Fullscreen directly profits from advertising revenue generated by unlicensed music videos on their channels but does not compensate songwriters or music publishers.”

Attempts to hold Google liable for infringing content on YouTube have been largely unsuccessful, given the “safe harbor” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Therefore, music publishers may now be focusing their efforts on content producers. Fullscreen alone has 15,000 YouTube channels with more than 200 million subscribers and averages 36 million viewers responsible for 284 million video views per month in the United States.

The copyright suit also appears to be the result of failed negotiations between the two sides to reach a licensing agreement. In a statement announcing the lawsuit, the NMPA references an agreement with a competing MCN, Maker Studios. The settlement will reportedly “enable music publishers and their songwriting partners to be compensated for past infringement and license Maker going forward.”

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– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +