Warner Labels Sue Reality Kings, Alleging Copyright Infringement

LOS ANGELES—Warner Music Group, on behalf of several of its labels, has filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles federal court against RealityKings.com (RK) and its parent company, RK Netmedia Inc., alleging copyright infringement “of the most blatant and offensive kind.”

The lawsuit was filed July 7 by attorneys representing a number of well-known labels owned by corporate parent Warner Music Group—including Warner Bros Records, Electra Entertainment Group, Atlantic Recording Corporation, Bad Boy Records and Asylum Records, among others.

The 44-page complaint accuses the producer of adult content of the “deliberate and brazen exploitation of Plaintiff’s sound recordings and musical compositions in hundreds of extreme hardcore pornographic videos, without any consent or authorization from Plaintiff’s.”

The complaint further alleges that the “defendant’s use of Plaintiff’s recordings and musical compositions is no accident. Each of the Plaintiff’s works is featured prominently, in the foreground of the video, and serves as a focal point for the visual content,” and claims that the allegedly unlicensed music also is used to draw audiences to the defendant’s website and to advertise and promote the videos, “by naming the videos after popular songs (e.g., ‘Bring Sexy Back,’ containing the song ‘Sexyback’).”

The complaint goes to great lengths to paint a picture of a company well aware of copyright issues. “Defendants are sophisticated companies that go to great lengths to protect their own copyrights, including by registering their own copyrights, placing copyright notices and warnings on their websites, sending take-down notices and demand notices to websites that infringe their content, and designating an agent for service of infringement with the U.S. Copyright Office,” it reads.

The heart of the allegation of infringement involves content found in “live” club scenes. The complaint gives special attention to the “club sex” videos offered by Reality Kings channels such as “In The VIP” and “VIP Crew,” that allegedly contain “over 200 full-length … videos, comprised of individuals dancing and then engaging in explicit sexual activity.”

The lawsuit says there is little if any dialogue in the club videos, which “consist almost entirely of popular musical works, including Plaintiff’s works, which are played throughout filming.” The suit further claims that the fact that preview videos for the “club sex” content found in the Reality Kings tours do not contain the allegedly infringed music proves that “Defendants are well aware that they may not use music without a license.”

Reality Kings’ attorney Larry Walters replied to a request for comment, and provided the following quotes to AVN by phone.

“Reality Kings is a content producer and understands the importance and value of copyright,” he said, addressing the lawsuit in general. “We have been in touch with the plaintiff’s counsel and we hope to resolve any concerns without the need for any adversary litigation. However, the company is ready to protect its rights to engage in fair use, along with its free speech rights to comment on pop culture. The videos at issue depict actual club scenes with music in the background, and RK does not intend to infringe on any protected works.”

Responding in greater depth to the claim that the allegedly edited preview videos show intent or prior knowledge of infringing activity, Walters told AVN, “The absence of copyrighted material on the tours does not show any kind of intent to infringe or guilty knowledge. The tours are something that RK is able to control and create music for. It’s there to promote the reality show. The actual videos where the music appears is a live reality show of what’s going on in a club; and that’s exactly the point, that we have no control over what occurs there and they are merely filming what’s actually happening.

“So, yes, it is a different scene,” continued Walters. “It’s an issue of fair use, as to what goes on in the club; it’s a depiction of reality as opposed to the trailers, which RK is able to create and control and place their own music on. The nature of the fair use defense is that they’re filming what’s actually going on in the club, and that’s very different than selecting music and putting it on a video tape, and attempting to make a profit from it. Beyond that, I would just again point out that there is no intent to hide anything in the membership area. Anyone can sign up for membership and access it. That’s what RK sells to the general public, so it’s not as if they’re attempting to hide a secret club that gets access to the material in the membership area.”

In addition to a permanent injunction against future infringement, plaintiffs are seeking maximum statutory damages in the amount of $150,000 for each infringed work, and allege “hundreds of examples of infringement,”  though they say the full extent of the alleged infringement has yet to be determined.

AVN will follow this story as it develops.

A copy of the complaint can be accessed here.