Freeplay Music Sued over Copyright Trolling

Two major YouTube producers filed a federal lawsuit on Monday against Freeplay Music, a company that supplies free music for low-budget producers to use in videos they post on YouTube and other websites. Filed by Machinima and Collective Digital Studio, the two lawsuits accuse Freeplay of extorting video creators with a so-called “bait-and-switch” business model. They claim the company offers free music for videos but begins demanding unreasonable licensing fees for their music that has been used. According to the complaints, Freeplay then sends threatening messages demanding payment, but never even identifies what music has infringed upon its copyrights.

Machinima claims that its YouTube partners began receiving monetary demands from Freeplay in October 2014. Then Freeplay began demanding money from Machinima as well, even though they had never “subscribed to Freeplay’s service, downloaded Freeplay’s music, or otherwise agreed to any of Freeplay’s terms and conditions,” according to a statement from the company. Demands for payment often do not come directly from Freeplay, but from a company called TuneSat, a firm that supposedly monitors the web for acts of infringement of Freeplay’s copyright. The complaints filed Monday allege, however, that TuneSat and Freeplay were both founded and run by the same CEO. Requests for comment from TuneSat and Freeplay have gone unanswered.

In their complaints, Machinima and Collective Digital note that Freeplay’s service is marketed to struggling musicians, filmmakers and other artists; and those people simply do not have the financial means to combat Freeplay’s extortion tactics in court. The companies are seeking damages for what they are calling violations of California’s unfair competition laws, and are also seeking a judicial declaration that neither they nor their partners have infringed on Freeplay’s copyrights.