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Copyright infringement? The in-the-sky battle over airline music

Many people seeking to kick back and relax on an airline flight to or from California quickly avail themselves of the ubiquitous on-board entertainment system that provides music across a broad platform of genres.

As they drift away (both figuratively and literally), they're focused on the tunes, not the acrimonious litigation involving the music provider and centrally focused upon protection of the featured artists' intellectual property rights.

Indeed, and for understandable reasons, most consumers likely know little or nothing about that legal fight, which pits the music provider -- the Inflight Productions entity of a company called Global Eagle Entertainment Inc. -- against several music companies, including Universal Music and Polygram.

Those companies claim that Inflight has long been engaging in copyright infringement by playing artists' music without first having secured a legal right to do so through the execution of required licensing agreements.

Inflight has strenuously objected to that claim. Indeed, the provider filed a counterclaim against the record companies earlier this year, alleging that they fraudulently colluded. Inflight claims that it negotiated with the companies some years back and that they agreed to terms that allowed Inflight to continue providing music.

That is not true, contend the companies, with their complaint against Inflight stating that the music provider has infringed artists' copyrights "hundreds, if not thousands" of times.

The companies seem to have the upper hand presently. A federal judge in Los Angeles recently issued a tentative order granting their motion to dismiss Inflight's counterclaim.

Notwithstanding that order, though, the court has given Inflight some additional time to amend its claim and provide more details concerning the record companies' alleged fraud.

Source: Courthouse News Service Entertainment Law Digest, "Record labels win one in flight copyright battle," Matt Reynolds, June 24, 2015

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