Will the YouTube/Michelle Phan Lawsuit Change the Influencer Game?

Michelle Phan

In case you missed it: Michelle Phan, the “make-up demonstrator and entrepreneur” who became a prime influencer by posting short YouTube videos with titles like “Beach Beauty Essentials” and “How to Take the Perfect Selfie”–and earning nearly seven million followers in the process–got sued last week.

The suit, which could be worth several million dollars, stemmed from the fact that Phan allegedly used music by Ultra Records artist Kaskade in her clips without permission.

Phan is at the forefront of the social media influencer movement, earning more than $5 million in 2012 thanks to brand deals and appearing in ads for YouTube itself. The suit filed against her marks something of a first and raises some big questions about the future of one of the hottest trends in marketing.

Will it change the way the influencer game works?

Eric Dahan, the CEO of Instabrand.com, who spoke to us about using influencers to market to Millennials last month, has some thoughts after the jump.

“This lawsuit is interesting as it marks a change in the ethos and perception of influencers and social media as a whole. Influencers and social media have been seen as a platform for free expression and no one ever worried about IP, trademark, copyright or any other legal issues; they’ve always been a bunch of kids just speaking their minds.

Up to this point, when music was played on an influencer’s channel, labels and artists were happy and saw it as free PR for their songs. However, now that there is more and more money pouring into the influencer and social space, it’s no longer being overlooked by the legal teams–and artists want to be compensated.  The question in my business now is whether all the MCNs and influencer networks have to start brokering deals  with artists for the rights of a song featured in an influencers Vine, YouTube or Instagram.”

For the record, Phan’s reps told Mashable yesterday that she did have permission to use the song and that her team plans to counter-sue.

By the way, did anyone ask Kaskade how he feels?

So is this just another lawsuit, or will it change the way agencies approach the influencer game?

Oh, and here’s a Wall Street Journal video digging into how Phan does the thing she does: