By Safa Gangat
Spotify was recently hit with a big fat $1.6 billion USD copyright lawsuit by Wixen Music Publishing. Wixen, which licenses music for around 200 artists such as The Beach Boys, Tom Petty, Neil Young, and The Doors are suing Spotify for using thousands of song without any compensation, reports Reuters.
To familiarize, Wixen has the licenses to songs such as “Free Fallin” by Tom Petty, “Light My Fire” by the Doors, and “(Girl We Got a) Good Thing” by Weezer as well as the works by big music names like Stevie Nicks and Santana. The music publishing company filed the lawsuit in California federal courts on December 29th, 2017 seeking for large damages award worth at least $1.6 billion as well as injunctive relief. Of the 30 million songs that Spotify offers through their streaming service, Wixen claims that approximately 21 percent of the songs are unlicensed.
“Prior to launching in the United States, Spotify attempted to license sound recordings by working with record labels but, in a race to be first to market, made insufficient efforts to collect the required musical composition information and, in turn, failed in many cases to license the compositions embodied within each recording or comply with the requirements of Section 115 of the Copyright Act." - Wixen
Spotify had previously agreed to pay $43 million over a class action copyright lawsuit in a proposed settlement with artists Melissa Ferrick and David Lowery in May 2017. Despite Spotify’s relationship with the three major labels: Warner, Universal and Sony, Wixen’s lawsuit is another addition to their copyright issues saga.
Part of Wixen’s official complaints under the Jurisdiction section reads:
“Spotify (i) knowingly, intentionally, and repeatedly reproduced and/or distributed the Works over the Internet to California residents via its services;
(ii) knew or should have known that harm caused by its repeated unlicensed reproduction and distribution of the Works over the Internet was aimed at songwriters and music publishers, including Wixen and the songwriters it represents...
Spotify’s stance on copyright law is quite clear, as the company argues that the act of streaming music does not implicate neither reproduction or distribution rights under copyright law.
Wixen’s official complaint document can be found here.
It’s quite intriguing to know that Spotify has yet to comment publicly on the lawsuit and it has declined a request for comments by media. And a question to ponder - does Spotify think having label contracts to pay royalties is enough in their part to stream music freely?