YouTube Sensation Sued for Copyright Infringement

YouTube Star Michelle Phan, who has 6.7 million subscribers to her beauty tutorials, is being sued for multiple copyright infringements. Ultra Records claim Phan has used music from its artists Kaskade, Deadmau5, and Calvin Harris, and profited from them. The company's lawyers claim they have found over 50 examples of her using said music. 

Phan has also been featured on YouTube's ad campaigns online and in print. Phan's YouTube channel reportedly generates her millions of dollars a year. 

[via theverge]

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James Jenkins's picture

You steal long enough, you will get caught. No sympathy.

Richard Bell's picture

Proof read?

Jerrit Pruyn's picture

Sorry man, an older revision got posted.

Ralph Berrett's picture

Does it surprise me no. Most people do not have a good handle on copyright, especially music. When I worked for various newspapers, I ran into editors who had years of experience that did not understand copyright.

Or you have people like Jasmine Star who went to law school, publishing others people's written work as their own claiming they did not understand copyright. Again she went to law school.

Michelle Phan was largely stupidity in using the music not realizing how much her videos were going to succeed. My rough guess is we are talking 15-20% of her videos are in question. Is her channel worth millions no.

But I could see her owing $20,000 plus. Her best option is get a good lawyer and negotiate a payment deal.

Here is the thing we all need to beware as far as copyright. Yes it can be easily violated in the high tech world, but it is almost as easy to catch the violators with the same tech.

James Peryer's picture

She may have pulled in around a million over her youtube career with her view counts, but millions a year is just a ridiculous claim. You would think that someone who's been doing this for 8 years would have a basic idea that you shouldn't use others work without any form of permission.

Jennifer Kelley's picture

I've heard that YouTube pays a certain amount (I've heard $10k, but don't know for sure) if your video gets 1M views. She has millions of subscribers, so it's possible she earns in the high 5 figures from that alone. Then she's probably part of affiliate programs and earns commissions off sales of the products she's using in her videos. Then YouTube pays her to use her videos and stills in their ads. In my opinion, it's possible for her to earn "millions" but it's probably very low 7 figures.

James Peryer's picture

Ive heard its around 1k per 1M, but cant confirm that at all. Considering there are youtubers with over 5billion combined views, 10kpM would be like 50M+. Who knows. She has nearly a billion views though, so even at the figures I've heard shes close to $1M just from the views alone. If shes used copyrighted music in a lot of her videos, she could potentially face a nasty suit. Dont know enough on the laws though. I cant figure out how it took this long considering her popularity. The copyrighter holders can instantly shut down a video by claiming its copyright. Its a heavily problematic and abusable system.

Daniel Lee's picture

My girlfriend said she has her own makeup line so I'm sure that helps to contribute to her yearly income.

Seoirse Brennan's picture

"Makes millions of dollars a year" Damn... YouTube is profitable to those who have a big following huh !

Jason Ranalli's picture

While she may be making millions in profit from ALL her deals in ventures I really find it very hard to believe that millions or even a million are being paid to her via YouTube exclusively. Perhaps I'm wrong but that just seems far-fetched.

Bert McLendon's picture

Busted! Maybe she should read Fstoppers and she would know about Songfreedom and The Music Bed. Lesson learned. =)

John Sheehan's picture

Michelle Phan's lawyers are claiming she had a deal with Ultra Records to use the music, which I know a lot of popular Youtubers make with music publishers. Usually these agreements aren't formal contracts, just an email or letter stating the terms (you used the song, you give credit so we get exposure for our artists). If what her lawyer says is true(you can say anything in public statements, as long as you don't lie while in court), then I don't see Ultra having a case. Now if she didn't have an agreement (or was stupid enough not to having it in writing, just verbal) then she's on the hook. From what I know about these types of cases, there's going to be an out of court settlement and it might never go to trial.

David Nickerson II's picture

100% I know for a FACT large channels team up ALL the time. The claim she makes "millions" is wrong. She makes hundreds of thousands a year (within youtube) YouTube Corp are very close with the "higher ups" and would never let this happen without talking to her first. I'm guessing something went wrong somewhere.

Charles Gaudreault's picture

i tried one day to upload a video to youtube with a song that i had no copyright, just after uploading it i had no sound at all cause youtube some how has a code to kick the sound off if you dont have the copyright for the song. in youtube when you put a video with a song you can not monitise your video if the song is not yours! so she cant make money if she has no copyright for the song she uses ! well in canada its how it work i think :)

Chris Blair's picture

Ouch, don't know about "Millions per year" though, would like to see the stats on that one. Youtube stars bigger than her don't make even close to that much, but who knows.

John Sammonds's picture

I dont care about her use of music thats her problem, but I have forwarded her link to people that want to learn about and do there own makeup from every negative is a positave.

Anonymous's picture

Not a big deal when you get 10-20 views a day....
Money is like blood in the water.