Rebecca Black’s “Friday” … a legal battle
NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) – Rebecca Black is getting her 16th minute of fame now that the teen starlet’s infamous “Friday” video has been pulled off YouTube by her lawyers.
The singer enjoyed tremendous viral success in March with a song that was so silly and simple (“Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend, weekend”), it became irresistible fodder for every amateur comedian on Twitter and Facebook. The song reached No. 58 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, was covered by Justin Bieber, and then jumped the shark when it was performed on “Glee.”
Black’s “Friday” then started its descent toward a future edition of “Trivial Pursuit,” but now has gotten a momentary reprieve thanks to a take-down notice.
Unlike 99.9% of takedown notices submitted to YouTube, this isn’t a garden-variety response to a user uploading unauthorized copyrighted material. Rather, the dispute has been going on for months and is more about the contracts that young musicians sign before they hit it big.
In Black’s case, she seems to have created a vanity recording by making a deal with Ark Music Records to use its studio to record her song. After the song exploded, Ark Music wanted to capitalize. And that’s when it starts to get interesting.
In March, Black’s lawyers sent a letter to Ark Music, accusing the company of copyright infringement and unlawful exploitation of her publicity rights. Specifically, Black says she never got the master recordings allegedly due to her by contract and that Ark hadn’t attained the necessary rights to advertise her as an exclusive Ark recording artist and commercially exploit the song in derivatives like ringtones.
Most bona fide record labels would have taken care of such matters rather easily. But if Ark was really more like a recording studio for hire rather than a recording label, it likely gave little thought to how it would support Black’s career through publicity and marketing expenditures. Instead, Ark took a few hundred dollars from Black’s mother to let the 13-year-old record a song, probably without the slightest expectation of any further reward.
Now that the song has hit it big, the equation has obviously changed, and the parties are fussing over who owns which rights, which will help determine the slicing of the royalty pie. If the parties don’t come to an agreement, only a court’s inspection of the contract will settle the matter.
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