Musician Insists Google, Major Labels Pay Him $325 Million For Taking Down Videos That Cost Him $30 To Upload To Vevo
Aspiring recording artist Ronald Satish Emrit, (a.k.a., Satish Dat Beast) recently filed a massive lawsuit against several companies including Google, UMG, and Sony BMG following the removal of eight of his videos from Vevo (whom he is also suing). Among other damages, Dat Beast is citing infliction of emotional distress and damage to career prospects.
Guest Post by Tim Cushing on Techdirt
Ronald Satish Emrit — like my two preteen sons — is convinced YouTube is going to make him rich. However, Emrit's sole contribution to this effort so far has been eight music videos… and a $325,000,000 lawsuit.
COMES NOW, the plaintiff Ronald Satish Emrit, who is bringing forth this cause of action against all seven defendants looking to assess joint and several liability. Presumably, the defendants would seek contribution and indemnity from each other through the filing of cross-claims. Accordingly, the plaintiff is suing all seven of the defendants for a remedy at law amounting to $325,000,000 (three hundred and twenty-five million dollars).
Emrit signed up with Blue2Digital, paying it to upload his videos to the major label-backed Vevo channel. At some point recently, Emrit's videos were removed from Vevo. In response to the variety of injuries supposedly suffered by Emrit, a lawsuit has been filed against Google, Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, Blue2Digital, Vevo and (mysteriously) Warner Music Group. (Warner Music Group has no partnership agreement with Vevo.)
That $30 [$30 in today's dollars] is the root of Emrit's multiple complaints.
The plaintiff used a company called Blue2Digital (i.e. the fourth defendant) to have his music videos distributed onto the Vevo platform used by major record labels and their artists; the plaintiff paid approximately $30.00 to have his music videos distributed.
Emrit (a.k.a., "Satish Dat Beast") is, among other things, an aspiring recording artist, a "frivolous and vexatious" litigant, a 2016 presidential hopeful and, for the purposes of this in forma pauperis lawsuit, an "indigent, disabled, and unemployed citizen."
Emrit is certain these defendants owe him a shit-ton of money. He definitely has lots and lots of "damages" for which he'd like to be recompensed. He calls the removal of the videos from Vevo's channel "negligence" because the defendants "had a duty of care and duty of loyalty to safeguard the plaintiffs intellectual property in the form of the eight music videos."
In addition, the removal of the videos pained Emrit greatly (and actionably):
The plaintiff claims that all seven of the defendants have committed the intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) because it is and was extreme, outrageous, and egregious for them to remove eight commercially-released music videos copyrighted by the plaintiff.
He also maintains that his eight videos — swimming in a sea of millions — were all he needed to become a highly-successful recording artist. Emrit was destined for greatness, but for the tortious interference performed by a mega-conspiracy of industry titans.
The plaintiff argues that all seven of the defendants committed the tortious interference with business relations/contracts by removing all eight of the plaintiffs commercially-released music videos which would thereby prevent the plaintiff from being able to secure a commercial recording contract from any of the major record labels in the form of a "360 deal" with a cross-collateralization clause, controlled composition clause, and Minimum Delivery and Release Commitment (MDRC).
Emrit seems unaware that labels sign agreements with artists, not with content hosted on a third-party platform, uploaded by a third-party distribution company and monetized by a third-party YouTube channel.
His strongest cause of action is breach of contract:
The plaintiff asserts that all seven of the defendants committed a material breach of contract by accepting a payment from the plaintiff and subsequently removing his eight commercially-released music videos from the Vevo platform.
The problem with this is actually several problems.
First, any breach of contract would be solely Blue2Digital's, which accepted his money in exchange for placement with Vevo. But the terms and conditions he agreed to plainly point out — like so many do — that these can and will change without notice.
You acknowledge that Blue2Digital may change the scope of its services from time to time and without notice to You. Blue2Digital shall be under no obligation to stream or otherwise use Your Content.
Presumably Vevo's agreements with Blue2Digital contain similar wording.
On top of that, it appears the terms of service weren't breached by Blue2Digital. Instead, it looks as though something automated went haywire, resulting in Vevo booting all of Blue2Digital's uploads to that channel.
Thank You for being patient, as we know your videos have been down for the past few weeks. This was due to a glitch found in VEVO's system, which they believe was a botted program used by one of our clients. This lead to a long and tedious investigation, which policy was enforced and your videos being suspended until further notice.
This was posted in August. This has replaced the original Blue2Digital Vevo FAQ, which can now only be accessed via archived pages. The new page notes that Blue2Digital will be working with UMG going forward. Paying customers can still get their videos uploaded to the Vevo channel, but they'll have to perform additional steps.
UMG will need from us clearance from all artist regarding their works and master sound recordings, including copyrights and licensing agreements (If Applicable) for any samples found in your works before any videos or albums can be restored.
Failure to provide this information will automatically disqualify you from receiving our services. Please note that UMG has the right to refuse distribution for any song, video or any other content owned by you at it's own discretion.
Emrit may not like the fact that his videos were removed from Vevo, but it doesn't appear to be the result of "contract-breaking" conduct by Blue2Digital. Instead, it appears to be the result of bad behavior of another Blue2Digital customer… or the sort of "content management" infightingthat will only become more common as IP enforcement is handed over to automated taskmasters.
From that point, Emrit's lawsuit gets even more ridiculous. He further claims the removal of videos by Vevo violated the DMCA, the Sonny Bono Act, the Audio Home Recording Act (which allowed the release of blank digital media) and the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act (the birthplace of the DMCA Safe Harbors). He doesn't say how these actions violated these acts. He simply says that they do.
In addition[!] to the $325,000,000 in damages, Emrit also demands the following:
The plaintiff is also requesting the equitable remedy of an injunction or specific performance mandating that the plaintiff Ronald Emrit be offered a commercial recording contract by either UMG, Sony BMG, or WMG in the form of a "360 deal"…
If he does nail down this last demand, let's hope no one feels obligated to hand him an advance. With $325 million in hand, Emrit should be able to pay for his own recording costs.
Emrit, serial litigant, seems to feel the federal judicial system is his own small claims court. He's out $30 here, but wants $325 million. In a 2014 case in which he sued Reverbnation over fees paid for banner ad placement, the judge pointed out that:
Federal courts have jurisdiction to hear civil actions where complete diversity exists between the parties and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.
In this case, Plaintiff alleges that he lost somewhere between $100 to $200 dollars in his dealings with Defendant. Despite the low amount of compensatory damages, Plaintiff requests $250,000 in punitive damages in order to meet the amount in controversy.
In this case, Plaintiff seeks punitive damages totaling 1250 times more than his claimed compensatory damages. Indeed, even if Plaintiff only claimed punitive damages of $75,000, the resulting ratio of 375 to one would still run afoul of the Due Process Clause.
It therefore appears, to a legal certainty, that Plaintiff cannot satisfy the amount in controversy threshold, and thus, the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the case. Because the Plaintiff’s claim of subject matter jurisdiction “lacks an arguable basis  in law,” Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 325, the Court should dismiss this case as frivolous…
And earlier this year, another judge in another court had this to say about Emrit's losses vs. damages.
Emrit alleges that he paid $160.00 to have seven music videos entered in the Independent Music Awards contest and that he “never heard back from” the defendants or their representatives after he submitted his videos. Emrit claims that the defendants never watched or judged his videos and he seeks monetary damages of $250,000 and an injunction mandating that the defendants accept an unlimited number of contest submissions from him free of charge.
His claim that his damages exceed the amount in controversy requirement are not supported by any legally cognizable calculation of damages.
If Emrit's inability to show cause doesn't get this case tossed, his damage multiplier of 10,833,333 certainly will.