Producers of The Ellen DeGeneres Show Sued For Copyright Infringement

By Tamera Bennett

If you have ever watched The Ellen DeGeneres Show you know how integral music is to her programming.  She loves to dance.  According to court pleadings the production company has used over 1000 sound recordings without payment of the appropriate master use synchronization fee.

Several licenses and royalty streams are involved when music is played (live or recorded) on a TV show.  The broadcasters/TV networks typically hold a blanket public performance license to pay the songwriters and publishers for the performance of the music.  Two other licenses are typically also required:  a musical composition synchronization license and a  master use synchronization license.

In the case of the Ellen DeGeneres Show, the production company failed to secure the master use synchronization licenses.  This is the license granted by the record label when a recording is played, not when there is a live performance by the band/artist.  The fees for such a “master use” is typically the same amount that would be paid to the publisher/songwriter for the musical composition synchronization rights.

The NY Post article outlines the wrangling between the various record labels and Warner Bros. Entertainment (the show’s producer) to resolve the issue and collect the back-payments of royalties.

The case was filed September 9, 2009 in Nashville in the Middle District of Tennessee.  3:09-cv-00827 Arista Music  v. Time Warner, Inc.  Read the complaint here.

About Tamera Bennett

Tamera Bennett, nicknamed by her clients as the IP quarterback, develops strategies to protect and leverage each client's intellectual property. She works closely with her clients to implement customized brand management programs. Her clients range from rock star to leadership coach and financial guru to custom motorcycle designer. Prepared with an undergraduate degree in Recording Industry Studies and a law degree from Texas Wesleyan University School of Law, Tamera represents clients throughout Texas and Tennessee in entertainment, trademark and copyright law related matters View all posts by Tamera Bennett

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