Spotify Gets Hit with Two Copyright Lawsuits That Could Top $365M

On July 18, streaming music service Spotify got hit with two more copyright lawsuits, filed in Tennessee Middle District Court in Nashville, by two

Subscription News: Spotify Gets Hit with Two Copyright Lawsuits That Could Top $365M

Source: Spotify

On July 18, streaming music service Spotify got hit with two more copyright lawsuits, filed in Tennessee Middle District Court in Nashville, by two independent publishers, says The Tennessean. According to The Tennessean, the lawsuits allege that Spotify failed to obtain the necessary licenses for thousands of songs and has, therefore, been illegally streaming them to its listeners. The lawsuits are asking for the maximum allowed of $150,000 for each unlicensed work which would be in the $365 million range if Spotify is determined to have violated copyright law.

In separate actions, Spotify is being sued by Bob Gaudio, a songwriter and one of the original members of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, and Bluewater Music Services Corporation, a company that represents the publishing rights of dozens of country songwriters. The songs not properly licensed include “Gunpowder and Lead” (Miranda Lambert), “Living in the Promiseland” (Willie Nelson) and “Yesterdays” (Guns ‘N Roses). The lawsuits were both filed by entertainment lawyer Richard S. Busch of King & Ballow in Nashville.

“As we say in the Complaint, songwriters and publishers should not have to work this hard to get paid, or have their life work properly licensed, and companies should not be allowed to build businesses on the concept of infringe now and ask questions later,” Busch said in prepared remarks, published by The Tennessean. “We look forward to litigating these cases.” 

Subscription News: Spotify Gets Hit with Two Copyright Lawsuits That Could Top $365M

Source: Bigstock

In the Bluewater lawsuit, the plaintiff alleges that Spotify illegally added more than 2,300 songs from its catalog. According to Digital Trends, Bluewater says “anything less than the maximum $150,000 statutory damage award for each of the Infringed Works involved herein would encourage infringement, amount to a slap on the wrist, and reward a multibillion dollar company, about to go public, that rules the streaming marketing through a pattern of willful infringement on a staggering scale.”

In the Gaudio suit, 106 songs were illegally used, including “December, 1963 (Oh What a Night),” a song with more than 57 million streams on Spotify, according to The Tennessean.

According to the lawsuit, neither Bluewater nor Gaudio received proper notice of Spotify’s intent to use their songs, as required by U.S. music copyright law. Both Bluewater and Gaudio sent requests to Spotify requesting copies of their licenses and cease and desist notices.

These latest lawsuits come just months after Spotify settled a $200 million class-action lawsuit brought by songwriters for $43.4 million, according to Digital Music News. The money will be placed in escrow, and payouts will be made to verified owners who make claims on their share of the money. The action was brought by musician, songwriter and producer David Lowery on December 28, 2015 who sued Spotify for direct copyright infringement and unfair business practices.  

The Hollywood Reporter says that Spotify has publicly acknowledged that identifying and locating songwriters, producers and artists of every copyrighted song it plays is a daunting, if not impossible, task. Other lawsuits have alleged that Spotify isn’t trying hard enough.

Item #2 of the Gaudio complaint, shared by the Hollywood Reporter, reads:

“As alleged more fully below, Spotify has built a multi-billion dollar business with no assets other than the songs made available on its digital platform. Yet, as recent class action lawsuits and settlements against it have firmly established, Spotify built its behemoth by willfully infringing on the copyrights of creators of music worldwide without building the infrastructure needed to ensure that the songs appearing on the Spotify service were properly licensed or that appropriate royalties were paid on time (or at all) in compliance with the United States Copyright Act. Spotify’s apparent business model from the outset was to commit willful copyright infringement first, ask questions later, and try to settle on the cheap when inevitably sued.”

Insider Take:

Spotify isn’t the only streaming music company to be hit with lawsuits for copyright infringement. According to Digital Music News last year, Tidal, Microsoft, Google Play, Rhapsody and Slacker have also been involved in lawsuits. Clearly, there is a flaw in the system, and companies like Spotify, Pandora, Tidal, Apple Music and others need to ensure that their licenses to share content are in order or be prepared to face the consequences. This is only the beginning, and it could be the undoing of the streaming music industry, if a resolution to a systemic problem is not found quickly.

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