Spotify slapped with $1.6B copyright lawsuit over songs by The Doors, Tom Petty, others

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2018
Spotify last week was hit with a $1.6 billion lawsuit leveled by Wixen Music Publishing, a music publisher that alleges the streaming music giant is using thousands of songs from its catalog without a license and compensation.


Spotify co-founder and CEO Daniel Ek. | Source: Spotify


Wixen in a lawsuit filed in California federal court claims Spotify failed to obtain proper licenses to distribute tens of thousands of songs, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The publisher seeks damages of at least $1.6 billion plus injunctive relief.

As noted by the report, Wixen administers song compositions by Tom Petty, Zach De La Rocha and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, Steely Dan's Donald Fagen, Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, David Cassidy, Neil Young, Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon and Stevie Nicks, among others.

"Spotify brazenly disregards United States Copyright law and has committed willful, ongoing copyright infringement," the complaint reads. "Wixen notified Spotify that it had neither obtained a direct or compulsory mechanical license for the use of the Works."

The lawsuit stems from a $43 million settlement Spotify agreed to pay to end a 2015 class action led by David Lowery and Melissa Ferrick. Similar to the Wixen case, members of the Lowery and Ferrick class alleged Spotify failed to adequately pay mechanical licenses, or royalties, for streamed song compositions.

Last September, Wixen broke rank and objected to the settlement, a move Spotify questioned in a letter submitted to court on Friday. Lawyers for Spotify note Wixen's administrative agreements allow the publisher to negotiate licensing deals, but the terms do not specifically mention rights to litigate on behalf of the songwriters it represents.

Instead of waiting for a ruling on the matter, Wixen initiated the suit reported on today.

Spotify is no stranger to legal overtures having faced lawsuits ranging from alleged improper media attribution to royalty disputes. Most recently, two suits lodged in July accuse the streaming firm of failing to obtain compulsory licenses under Section 115 of the U.S. Copyright Act. Under current law, streaming firms like Spotify are not required to negotiate royalty deals with publishers, but they must issue a notice of intention to obtain a compulsory license.

Licensing is a sticky wicket for streaming music players including Apple, which markets its own product under the Apple Music banner. With vast catalogs spanning major studios to third-party aggregators, streaming firms must find ways to properly identify and credit songwriters whose works are streamed to paying customers.

Apple last month was slapped with a lawsuit from musician Bryan Eich, who claims the company "engaged in a systematic process of infringement" in streaming two albums. Specifically, Eich alleges Apple failed to serve a notice of intent to obtain compulsory licenses for his recordings as mandated by law.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 17
    bitmodbitmod Posts: 267member
    1.6 billion... lmfao
    So they are saying every single Spotify user has ONLY been playing their small handful of artists 24/7/365 for years and years... 
    Ok then... have fun with that and proving damages. 

    When the greedy music execs and artists are done cannibalizing their fans and tech companies... how much are they going to make when everyone just starts pirating their music again? Or listening to local music, or one of the hundred thousand other ways to enjoy free music that they get zero profit from... 

    Gotta laugh at all the big headlines "Artist X is making a statement and pulling their music from streaming service X"... then a few months and missing hundreds of thousand bucks later - the library suddenly shows up again.







    watto_cobramuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 2 of 17

    @Bitmod, they always have to start off with a huge number and then settle for less. That's standard.


    Again, I fail to understand how a company, whose only business is streaming licenced music can screw up on getting the adequate clearances.

    ronnmwhiteradarthekatracerhomie3coxnvox7Muntzmike1GeorgeBMacrandominternetpersonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 17

    @Bitmod, they always have to start off with a huge number and then settle for less. That's standard.


    Again, I fail to understand how a company, whose only business is streaming licenced music can screw up on getting the adequate clearances.

    Maybe the business model doesn’t work if you pursue clearances in good faith. 

    Perhaps the guys running the company had a model of build a company that pays really well until it is found out that it’s not sustainable?
    bshankcoxnvox7Muntztmayrandominternetpersonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 17
    bshankbshank Posts: 200member
    These are some very big names. It’s not Bryan Eichs couple of songs nobody knows. Looks like Spotify might have finally finished sabatoging themselves.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 17
    With vast catalogs spanning major studios to third-party aggregators, streaming firms must find ways to properly identify and credit songwriters whose works are streamed to paying customers.
    From what I understand, it normally requires a call or email to one agency to "properly identify and credit songwriters." It is not hard...Spotify simply chooses not to do it, then hope that the songwriters and their publishers either do not find out, or do not have the means to challenge Spotify in court. In some cases, Spotify will pay when they are confronted, but often only after withholding the proper payments for years. I have enjoyed the service a few times, but after hearing of their treatment of songwriters, I'm done.
    Muntzlostkiwiwatto_cobratokyojimu
  • Reply 6 of 17

    bitmod said:
    1.6 billion... lmfao
    So they are saying every single Spotify user has ONLY been playing their small handful of artists 24/7/365 for years and years... 
    Ok then... have fun with that and proving damages. 

    When the greedy music execs and artists are done cannibalizing their fans and tech companies... how much are they going to make when everyone just starts pirating their music again? Or listening to local music, or one of the hundred thousand other ways to enjoy free music that they get zero profit from... 

    Gotta laugh at all the big headlines "Artist X is making a statement and pulling their music from streaming service X"... then a few months and missing hundreds of thousand bucks later - the library suddenly shows up again.


    I believe this has much more to do with songwriters, who in millions of cases are NOT the artist. They are often making no money at all from Spotify for their copyrighted works...not sure why they should be ok with a service stealing their property to make money off of it. That's actually far worse than users stealing it for their private use.
    Muntzmike1emig647watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 17
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,776member
    coxnvox7 said:

    bitmod said:
    1.6 billion... lmfao
    So they are saying every single Spotify user has ONLY been playing their small handful of artists 24/7/365 for years and years... 
    Ok then... have fun with that and proving damages. 

    When the greedy music execs and artists are done cannibalizing their fans and tech companies... how much are they going to make when everyone just starts pirating their music again? Or listening to local music, or one of the hundred thousand other ways to enjoy free music that they get zero profit from... 

    Gotta laugh at all the big headlines "Artist X is making a statement and pulling their music from streaming service X"... then a few months and missing hundreds of thousand bucks later - the library suddenly shows up again.


    I believe this has much more to do with songwriters, who in millions of cases are NOT the artist. They are often making no money at all from Spotify for their copyrighted works...not sure why they should be ok with a service stealing their property to make money off of it. That's actually far worse than users stealing it for their private use.

    I hadn’t even thought about the songwriters. Like most people I assume that the artists write their own songs, but of course, that’s not always the case. 

    Streaming is complicated. 
    edited January 2018 coxnvox7watto_cobramuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 8 of 17
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 5,158member
    RIP Spotify....
    kuduwatto_cobrabshank
  • Reply 9 of 17
    thedbathedba Posts: 647member
    There are times when I miss the days where one could go down to the record store and buy an album bring it back home, admire the artwork, the lyrics and actually sit down and appreciate it in its entirety.
    I guess those days are long gone now in the age of "Despacito".  
    coxnvox7YvLywatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 17
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,487member
    Thank you again Steve Jobs.  You once again set the standard:
    Decades ago you transformed the music industry by digitizing music into MP3's when you created iTunes.  The transformation had less to do with its technical achievements than with its social and legal ones -- because you enabled users to stop stealing musician's product and enabled them to collect it legally.

    Apple Music, (generally) maintains that standard of honesty and integrity.   Yes, occasionally there are complaints, even legitimate ones.  But, for the most part, it's an honest, above board set-up that does the right thing the right way.

    Thanks Steve!
    randominternetpersonbadmonkkuducoxnvox7YvLywatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 17
    jd_in_sbjd_in_sb Posts: 1,589member
    Thank you again Steve Jobs.  You once again set the standard:
    Decades ago you transformed the music industry by digitizing music into MP3's when you created iTunes.  The transformation had less to do with its technical achievements than with its social and legal ones -- because you enabled users to stop stealing musician's product and enabled them to collect it legally.

    Apple Music, (generally) maintains that standard of honesty and integrity.   Yes, occasionally there are complaints, even legitimate ones.  But, for the most part, it's an honest, above board set-up that does the right thing the right way.

    Thanks Steve!
    Agreed!
    GeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 17
    JinTechJinTech Posts: 756member
    This is the end
    Beautiful friend
    This is the end
    My only friend, the end
    Of our elaborate plans, the end
    Of everything that stands, the end
    No safety or surprise, the end
    I'll never look into your eyes... Again
    Can you picture what will be
    So limitless and free
    Desperately in need... Of some... Stranger's hand
    In a... Desperate land
    badmonkwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 17
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 2,244member
    The whole Music industry is a complected mess. Generally the one singing the song only gets a tiny cut of the money. It's the Song Writer, Producer and others down the line all getting their cut of a song. The person singing the song, the band make most of their money in concerts and product sales during those concerts. Trying to make sure you crossed all the T's requires a full time team of people and still a few may leak through. Better off to not have the songs on the service unless you're 100% sure you know where the money is suppose to go, and that they are 100% on board. If you don't have that, don't have the music on the service.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 17
    jkichlinejkichline Posts: 1,350member
    There's something a bit "fishy" going on here:

    "Wixen notified Spotify that it had neither obtained a direct or compulsory mechanical license for the use of the Works."

    What's strange is that a mechanical license is usually obtained when you are looking to produce a "mechanical" copy of the work like a CD.  For instance, we produced a CD a few years ago that featured "cover" songs and we needed to obtain licensing for those songs.  Typically you would pay a few cents per CD copy you intend to make.  I believe it was like 50 cents a CD per song.

    It sounds like instead of accepting streaming revenue through a streaming license (similar to radio), that Wixen is requiring a mechanical license and then suing Spotify for mechanical licenses for all it's users for all the songs in their catalog. The logic is probably that Spotify is providing direct access to those songs and creating a virtual CD library so it's not streaming in the sense that you may or may not hear the song when you want. Spotify has basically replaced CDs with instant access to any song and that's probably where the "beef" is.
  • Reply 15 of 17
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    thedba said:
    There are times when I miss the days where one could go down to the record store and buy an album bring it back home, admire the artwork, the lyrics and actually sit down and appreciate it in its entirety.
    I guess those days are long gone now in the age of "Despacito".  
    There were really crappy records being played in the 1970s too you know and lots of them made to the store and were used as filler in albums.
    Music was insanely expensive as a hobby, probably was buying the equivalent of $1500 per year of cd's by the mid 1980s.;
    People complaining about spending $120 a year is really annoying in this context.
    edited January 2018 watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 17
    thedba said:
    There are times when I miss the days where one could go down to the record store and buy an album bring it back home, admire the artwork, the lyrics and actually sit down and appreciate it in its entirety.
    I guess those days are long gone now in the age of "Despacito".  
    Aside from the trip to the store, how is that different from today?

    Apple Music/iTunes provides album artwork, while streaming I can view the lyrics and I can sit down to listen to entire albums. 
    kudu
  • Reply 17 of 17
    thedba said:
    There are times when I miss the days where one could go down to the record store and buy an album bring it back home, admire the artwork, the lyrics and actually sit down and appreciate it in its entirety.
    I guess those days are long gone now in the age of "Despacito".  
    Aside from the trip to the store, how is that different from today?

    Apple Music/iTunes provides album artwork, while streaming I can view the lyrics and I can sit down to listen to entire albums. 

    On that topic, something I always wished for was that Apple allow the iTunes LP files be viewed on iOS devices.

    They made a big deal of it when it was released, but didn't follow through with the logical step of letting it be viewed on the iOS devices.

    watto_cobra
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