BrandArena: Spotify hit with $1.6 billion copyright lawsuit

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Spotify hit with $1.6 billion copyright lawsuit

Streaming giant Spotify has been hit with a massive copyright lawsuit on behalf of Wixen Music Publishing, to the tune of at least $1.6 billion.

On Friday, Wixen Music Publishing filed a lawsuit in California federal court that alleges that Spotify is using Petty's "Free Fallin'," the Doors' "Light My Fire" and tens of thousands of other songs without a license and compensation. The plaintiff is seeking a damages award worth at least $1.6 billion plus injunctive relief.

The new lawsuit filed by Wixen Music Publishing covers music from Rage Against the Machine, The Doors, Steely Dan and many others.

"Wixen is an independent music publisher and exclusive licensee of the Works, all of which have been registered or are pending registration with the United States Copyright Office," begins the official complaint.

"Spotify is the world's most dominant music streaming and limited downloading service. As Spotify has publicly admitted, and as recent lawsuits and settlements confirm, Spotify has repeatedly failed to obtain necessary statutory or 'mechanical' licenses to reproduce and/or distribute musical compositions on its service.

"Consequently, while Spotify has become a multibillion dollar company, songwriters and their publishers, such as Wixen, have not been able to fairly and rightfully share in Spotify's success, as Spotify has in many cases used their music with a license and without compensation."

Wixen suggests that as much as 21 per cent of the 30 million songs on Spotify aren't licensed.

Last May, Spotify came to a proposed $43 million settlement to resolve a class action from songwriters led by David Lowery and Melissa Ferrick. The plaintiffs in that case had alleged that Spotify hasn't adequately paid mechanical licenses for song compositions.

In July, Spotify was hit with two more lawsuits, including one from Bob Gaudio, a songwriter and founding member of the group Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Like Lowery and Ferrick, the plaintiffs in these new cases asserted that Spotify hadn't fully complied with obligations under Section 115 of the U.S. Copyright Act, which provides a compulsory license to make a mechanical reproduction of a musical composition, but only if a "notice of intention" is sent out and payments are made.

With news of more litigation against Spotify circulating, Wixen then made a move in the Ferrick class action case to object to the settlement.