Michelle Phan sued by music label for copyright

Screen shot from one of Michelle Phan's videos
Screen shot from one of Michelle Phan’s videos


YouTube celebrity Michelle Phan who has more than 6.7 million subscribers on the online video website, is being sued by Ultra Records for alleged copyright breaches.

Ultra Records claim Phan, 27, has used around 50 of their artists’ songs without their permission in a number her YouTube videos and on her website and are seeking US$150,000 (£88,000) for each instance of infringement, which would total over US$7.5 million. They also want an injunction imposed upon the internet star to prevent her from using them in the future. The company – an electronic dance music (or EDM) label – represents a large number of artists including Kaskade, deadmau5, Calvin Harris, Tiësto and Paul van Dyk.

The label and its associated publisher, Ultra International Music Publishing LLC, claim Phan has made money through her YouTube videos and profited through the use of their artists’ music, calling her actions “blatant copyright infringement”. The plaintiffs said she had been informed she did not possess a licence “yet continues to willfully infringe in blatant disregard of plaintiffs’ rights of ownership.”

However Kaskade, a Grammy-nominated DJ, was quick to distance himself from the lawsuit, saying it is the label who are suing and not the artists but there was little he could do about it. He then defended Phan via Twitter by lightheartedly saying she had good taste in music.

Apart from replying to Kaskade’s tweet thanking him and her fans for their support, Phan has not yet explicitly spoken out about the incident herself, however a spokesman said the lawsuit “lacks any merit” and argues that “Ultra agreed to allow Michelle to use the music and Michelle intends to fight this lawsuit and bring her own claims against Ultra. Michelle’s intention has always been to promote other artists, creating a platform for their work to be showcased to an international audience.”

Michelle, who is American-born Vietnamese, has clocked up a huge following on YouTube for her more than 300 online makeup tutorials that include tips on looking like various versions of Barbie and reproducing some of Lady Gaga’s looks. Since joining YouTube in 2007, Phan has become one of the most popular vloggers and an advertising partner for them, had makeup artist deals with Lancôme, featured in a nationwide Dr. Pepper commercial, co-founded a monthly beauty products subscription, released a cosmetic line with L’Oreal and written a book entitled “Make Up” due out in October this year. She is reportedly worth an estimated US$3 million, less than half of what she would owe Ultra Records if they win the lawsuit.


About the author 

Young (陈俊扬) is a British-born Chinese 25-year-old whose family originate from Malaysia and Teochew, China. He has a keen interest in China and its history, culture, language and current affairs having studied Chinese at the University of Manchester. Young has just completed his MA at the University of Salford in Social Media and has several years of experience as a freelance journalist for a number of university, local, regional, national and international online magazines and newspapers.

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