Universal Music has the Hippest Lawyers, Notwithstanding the Law of Unintended Consequences

November 21st, 2006

Last week’s viral video phenomenon featured a BofA manager who moonlights as a rock singer performed a take-off of U2’s “One” at a sales conference in which he changed the lyrics to hype the bank and its salespeople. This was noteworthy only for the fact that the singer, Mr. Ethan Chandler, is actually pretty good- until a video of the performance was posted to YouTube. Hits to the video took off and the episode culminated in Johnny Marr performing the BofA version of the song at a Modest Mouse concert in New York.

Universal Music, who has been on a tear recently in going after alleged copyright violators & scooping up revenue from every Zune player sold, promptly jumped all over the BofA homage. The piece of the story I find most amusing is that Universal’s lawyers (represented by Raul Gonzalez, Esq.) decided it was not enough merely to send private cease-and-desist letters to people hosting the site- they posted the letter in the comments under a copy of the video on Stereogum.com.

Cynical minds might ask why no similar letter had been posted under the copy on YouTube, at least until such minds are reminded that Universal now owns a piece of Google thanks to the YouTube-Google merger. In a single move, Universal gets to pound its copyright soapbox and harass a YouTube competitor. Pretty clever, except for the fact that just about no one had ever heard of Stereogum, and now they have.

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