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YouTube Star Michelle Phan Countersues Dance Label Ultra Records

Michelle Phan, who runs one of the top fashion and beauty channels on YouTube, countersued electronic-dance music company Ultra Records, which had accused the digital star of illegally using songs of its artists in her videos.

According to Phan’s counterclaim, filed Thursday, she had indeed received authorization from one of Ultra’s managers to use the songs in question — dating back to 2009 — and that the label granted the permission in order to promote digital sales of the music on Apple’s iTunes. Phan’s primary YouTube channel currently has nearly 7 million subscribers.

Phan’s suit seeks declaratory judgment that Ultra had issued a non-revocable license to the recordings and that her videos do not infringe on any Ultra copyright. In addition, she’s demanding unspecified monetary damages, accusing the record company of taking actions “with fraud, oppression and malice.”

In July, Ultra Records and Ultra International Music Publishing sued Phan for copyright infringement, alleging she used songs from several of its artists, including Kaskade, in videos without permission.

A rep for New York-based Ultra Records did not respond to a request for comment on Phan’s countersuit.

According to Phan’s suit, like other record labels, Ultra wanted her to use the music of artists on its label as background music in her YouTube videos along with an iTunes link.

Phan, who was featured this spring in a YouTube-sponsored ad campaign, claims she originally contacted Ultra in July 2009 requesting permission to use the songs, in return for crediting the musician and include an iTunes purchase link in the video. The Ultra manager responded that he was “more than happy to let [Phan] use this content,” per her counterclaim. That agreement between Ultra and Phan covered not only Kaskade, but all Ultra artists, according to her lawsuit.

It was not until March 2014 that Ultra’s attorneys sent a cease-and-desist notice to Phan claiming her use of the songs was unauthorized, according to the suit. This summer, the label also sent YouTube Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notices for 12 of Phan’s videos, claiming copyright infringement “even though Ultra had previously agreed that Phan could use music by Ultra artists in those videos,” according to her lawsuit.

Phan’s law firm, Grodsky & Olecki LLP, filed the counterclaim in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

In May, Phan inked a development deal with Endemol Beyond USA, the digital arm of global TV production firm Endemol, which encompasses original content for both digital and broadcast. She also has a contract with L’Oreal, one of the world’s largest cosmetics manufacturers, for her own line of Em-Cosmetics makeup.

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