After receiving reviews like “mind-meltingly horrific” and “hilariously dreadful,” it’s no wonder that thirteen-year-old Rebecca Black’s single “Friday” is so popular. A March 11 blog post by comedian Daniel Tosh helped to launch the video (produced by L.A. production company Ark Music Factory) into a bewildering sensation. Despite due warnings from friends and the media, as of this post, the performance boasts 86,390,035 YouTube views. With 1,721,474 “dislikes,” the urge to keep watching Black’s video is somewhat like the urge to keep pressing on a bruise.

So what could Black possibly have to complain about after a “Good Morning America” appearance, an upcoming gig at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards, and the No. 38 single on the Billboard digital sales chart last week? According to Rolling Stone, she claims that Ark: a) never gave her the master recordings of her song and video; b) has been exploiting her likeness and song on several websites; c) made a “Friday” ringtone without her permission; and d) promoted her as an exclusive Ark recording artist. After her mother paid Ark $4,000 to record and produce the song and video, Black signed an agreement stating that she owns the master recordings 100%, so Ark concedes this claim.

As L.A.-based attorney Aaron Moss blogged, “when you have a song that people are paying for just so they can talk about how bad it is . . . you’ve got something worth fighting for.” Two Ark founders co-wrote the song and, as such, claim that Ark owns the copyright in the composition (the music and lyrics). Copyright in the sound recording (Black’s version of the song) is a separate intellectual property right. Generally a label will have its artist assign her sound recording rights to the label, but “Ark Music seems less like a record label than a recording studio for hire,” so it is unclear whether Black, Ark, or both owns the sound recording copyright. Moss advises the parties to settle quickly so as not to use up their resources hammering out the details of the soon-to-be-forgotten online spectacle that is “Friday.”

- Caroline Fleming

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