The parent company of one of poker industry’s largest content sites, PokerNews.com, is in hot water as a number of American music labels have filed a lawsuit against it for copyright infringement. The lawsuit, initially made known to the public by TorrentFreak and confirmed by multiple media outlets, is seeking as much as $7 million damages from iBusMedia for improper use of music in PokerNews’ videos and podcasts.
Those Songs Don’t Belong to You
Though I am not a lawyer, it seems like a relatively simple case. MGB, PolyGram, Songs of Universal, Universal Music, and Z Tunes alleged that PokerNews used 46 of the record labels’ songs in more than 250 videos and podcasts without any sort of licensing or permission. Copyright law states that the penalties could be as much as $150,000 per song; 46 songs at $150,000 each is $6.9 million.
Now, there are plenty of people and websites that use songs without paying the copyright holder or at least getting permission. Most of them are too small to really care about and many or most could probably claim ignorance, that they didn’t know what they were doing wasn’t allowed. Not so with iBusMedia and PokerNews. According to the plaintiffs, iBusMedia was told three years ago that it had to stop and even though the company said it would, songs have still been used since then.
On top of that, the plaintiffs claim that even without the warning, iBusMedia clearly knows the rules, anyway. The complaint states, in part:
Plaintiffs are informed and believe, and on that basis aver, that iBus Media is well aware that its conduct constitutes copyright infringement. Defendant is a sophisticated entity that derives significant income from the exploitation of the content it distributes, including the Infringing Podcasts, and is fully familiar with applicable copyright laws.
On Pokernews, iBus Media even expressly proclaims that “All Content published by PokerNews on the Site (apart from User-submitted Content), including, without limitation, images, photographs, graphics, animations, videos, audio and text . . . are owned by PokerNews and/or its licensors and is protected by copyright and other intellectual property or other proprietary rights.” Nevertheless, iBus Media has continued to produce and make available infringing content, despite receiving express notice that its conduct is prohibited. As such, Defendant knows that music cannot be copied, adapted, distributed, sold, and publicly performed without a license.
I’d say that’s fairly damning.
The plaintiffs seek a jury trial, though with any legal dispute, the parties could always end up settling out of court. Again, I am no lawyer, but it seems like iBusMedia would want to try to do that, especially because it could also be looking at punitive damages if it loses the case.
This is not the first time that PokerNews and iBusMedia have had earned a side-eye. About a year ago, the site and its parent company admitted that they were majority-owned by the Stars Group, the parent of PokerStars. For years, critics of PokerNews have pointed to its PokerStars-heavy coverage, including its focus on PokerStars pros and qualifiers in live tournaments. It was obvious that PokerNews had a serious affiliate relationship with the Stars Group, but being owned by the company was a revelation that did not go over very well with the poker community.