Spotify hit with $1.6B lawsuit for streaming music without permission

By Ray Downs  |  Jan. 2, 2018 at 8:38 PM
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Jan. 2 (UPI) -- A music publishing company that owns the rights to some of the most popular rock songs of the past 50 years filed a $1.6 billion lawsuit against Spotify for not paying for the rights to stream its music.

Wixen Music Publishing, which owns the rights to music by Neil Young, Tom Petty, The Doors, Steely Dan, and several other groups and artists, filed the lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles on Friday.

"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," the lawsuit states. "Consequently, while Spotify has become a multi-billion 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 without a license and without compensation."

The lawsuit says that Spotify initially made attempts to license, but in a rush to beat other streaming services, decided to outsource the responsibility to the Harry Fox Agency, a New York City-based musical rights management firm that Wixen Publishing says wasn't fit to handle such a large task.

"Spotify knew that HFA did not possess the infrastructure to obtain the required mechanical licenses and Spotify knew it lacked these licenses," the lawsuit states. "Accordingly, Spotify made, and continues to make, musical compositions live for streaming and/or limited downloading ... without identifying composition rights holders and without obtaining the required mechanical license."

According to Variety, Spotify filed papers in court last week that questioned whether Wixen Publishing has the right to sue on behalf of its clients. The streaming service has not commented on the lawsuit.

Spotify has been hit by several lawsuits over the past year for similar accusations.

In May, the streaming service settled a class action lawsuit filed by a group of artists for $43.4 million. The plaintiffs, which included the band Cracker, singer-songwriter Melissa Ferrick and David Lowery, the lead singer of Camper van Beethoven, sought up to $200 million for using their music without permission.

And in July, Spotify found itself as defendants in two more lawsuits for copyright infringement. Those lawsuits are pending.

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