Megaupload Video Takedown Puts Universal on the Hot Seat

December 22, 2011 Updated: April 8, 2013


A music video backed by file-sharing site Megaupload featuring Jamie Foxx, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Alicia Keyes, and others was taken down from YouTube last week, with recording industry giant Universal Music claiming responsibility for the move.

In the video, which has since been uploaded again, the stars laud Megaupload’s file-sharing capability. “When I gotta send files across the globe,” Will.I.Am says in the video, “I use Megaupload.”

The file-sharing site recently redesigned its website on Dec. 9, and spent millions on the star-studded video to promote its efforts, but was later taken down.

Megaupload is now suing Universal, alleging that it “sabotaged our campaign” by “abusing the DMCA takedown process and unlawfully claiming ownership of the Mega Song,” reads a statement. Universal, it says, has no rights to the video and agreements were signed by the artists in the video with Megaupload.

“Efforts to reach out to UMG and open a dialogue about this abuse of the DMCA process were answered with unfounded and baseless legal threats and demands for an apology,” it said.

Megaupload, which claims 180 million registered users, has drawn its fair share of criticism from the music industry, being labeled as a “rogue operator” by both the RIAA and the MPAA, which represent numerous mainstream recording artists. They have alleged that the site encourages the sharing of pirated software and products on a large scale.

In court papers obtained by Wired magazine, Universal attorney Kelly Klaus said the music company has an agreement with YouTube giving it “rights to effect the removal of user-posted videos through YouTube’s Content Management System.”

On Dec. 9, Universal “utilized YouTube’s CMS system to effect the removal of a posting of the video on YouTube,” the papers said, adding that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act protects it from any legal action by using the system to take the video down. As a result, Universal claims Megaupload cannot sue it.

YouTube has since reinstated the video because it said Universal abused the system to take it down.

Megaupload said Universal is attempting to lobby federal lawmakers to pass legislation that would “allow them to not only delete specific content from a website, but to delete entire websites from the Internet.” It adds that with last week’s action to take down its video, such unilateral power should not be handed over to corporations to take down websites.

Some observers say this issue is far from over because it is unclear what powers a company with an agreement with YouTube can have in taking down a video.

YouTube attempted to dissuade fears that certain companies including Universal could, at will, seemingly take down videos they don’t like.

 “Our partners do not have the right to take down videos from YT unless they own the rights to them or they are live performances controlled through exclusive agreements with their artists, which is why we reinstated it,” the company told Wired.