Pharrell’s Lawyer Threatens YouTube With $1 Billion Lawsuit

Music industry heavy hitter strengthens battle to have 20,000 songs removed from video-sharing site.

YouTube is embattled in a music fight that could turn into a $1 billion legal war. The company is being taken to task by a music industry heavy hitter representing the licensing rights for 20,000 songs from artists including Pharrell, Smokey Robinson, The Eagles and the late John Lennon.

Irving Azoff, leader of Global Music Rights and former Eagles manager, alleges that YouTube has illegal access to the music in question, according to the Hollywood Reporter. He's strengthened his fight against the company following YouTube's announcement of Music Key, a streaming service in the same vein as Spotify or Pandora.

While a blanket license from performance rights organizations ASCAP and BMI allows Google’s veteran video-sharing site to post the music, Azoff maintains that the company has been “the least cooperative” and the “worst offenders” among the streaming services. “It’s also their attitude,” he added.

YouTube isn’t backing down. The licensing from ASCAP and BMI makes it legal for the site to post music until the contract ends, no matter how the artist may object. Furthermore, YouTube says that it’s GMR's job to work out licensing matters, and that the company has yet to submit URL links as proof of infringement. GMR would have to produce paperwork for each of the 20,000 songs to have them taken down.

Howard King, GMR's attorney, believes the demand to be “disingenuous.” 

Google’s lawyer called his claims “misguided.”

From the looks of it, the fight is far from over. “This will result in someone blinking, and if it is not them, there will be a billion-dollar copyright infringement lawsuit filed,” King said.

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(Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

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