What started off as seemingly innocent background music in a collaboration between Cornell and two agriculture organizations soon unfolded into a major lawsuit — with the University now facing allegations of copyright infringement.
After collaborating with the two companies to create an advertisement featuring ambient music in the background, Cornell was served with a lawsuit from one of the owners of the ambient track — record label Yesh Music LLC.
The song at the center of this lawsuit is entitled “Time – Ambient Version” — an electronic, atmospheric track which crescendos with increasing instrumentation.
Yesh Music filed the lawsuit against Cornell on Oct. 3.
Initially, the two other parties involved in the lawsuit were the Groundswell Center for Food and Planning, an organization which encourages women, people of color and other marginalized groups to pursue sustainable farming, and Ecoagriculture Partners, a non-profit that also specializes in sustainable agriculture through “integrated landscape management.”
In a statement to The Sun, Yesh Music’s attorney, Richard Garbarini said that Yesh Music filed this lawsuit because the company relies on royalties from its ambient songs.
“Yesh filed the matter because the property it created and earns a living from [was] copied, synchronized, and publicly displayed without a license,” Garbarini said.
The record label is now seeking damages from Cornell and Ecoagriculture of up to $150,000 but no less than $30,000.
The record label elaborated in the lawsuit that it was difficult to find the advertisement because it failed to include the copyrighted recording title, album name, author, label and copyright owner.
Yesh Music claims in the lawsuit that its counsel issued a cease and desist order to Groundswell and Ecoagriculture on Aug. 12, but both parties ignored the order. On Aug. 30, lawyers for Yesh Music sent another cease and desist order to Groundswell and Ecoagriculture, but the order was ignored once again. The record label described the dismissiveness of the orders in the lawsuit as an “utter disregard,” entitling the label to file a lawsuit.
For Cornell, the lawsuit stated that the University, along with Ecoagriculture, broadly distributed the advertisement — which allegedly lacked the proper licensing to use the song — as “an effort to increase support for [their] featured farming related entities.”
University spokesperson John Carberry told The Sun that the University cannot currently comment on any active litigation.
However, the case against Groundswell was recently dismissed, according to Garbarini.
Yesh Music made headlines in February 2016 when it filed a lawsuit against Tidal Music for copyright infringement and underpayment in royalties to the keyboard player and percussionist of The American Dollar, whose music the company publishes.
The case for Cornell and Ecoagriculture is still ongoing.