It is looking increasingly likely that Spotify’s legal issues with music publishers are more than merely a bump in the road.
Seven independent music publishers sued Spotify in Nashville on Wednesday for using their songs without the necessary licenses, ramping up the legal battle with the music streaming giant.
Spotify already settled two multi-million-dollar lawsuits with publishers and songwriters making similar claims.
Then in July, Bluewater Music and Bob Gaudio, filed separate lawsuits against the company in Nashville. On Wednesday, A4V, J&J Ross Co., Lakshmi Puja Music, Lindabet Music Corp., Music By Shay, Music of the West and Swinging Door Music joined together to sue Spotify as well.
The new lawsuit is related to claims that songs such as “Whatever Lola Wants (Lola Gets),” “Cool Water,” and “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” were used without proper licenses by Spotify.
Both of the July lawsuits and the new suit on Wednesday were filed by prominent entertainment law attorney Richard Busch. The catalogs for each of the new plaintiffs are administered by the Brentwood, Tenn.-based Songwriters Guild of America.
The Nashville lawsuits have received substantial interest among music industry stakeholders because of a surprising legal argument by Spotify. In its response to the Bluewater lawsuit, Spotify implied that it does not have to obtain a mechanical license in order to stream a song.
The company has been paying mechanical license fees to publishers and settled the recent lawsuits over disputes over licensing disputes.
Under copyright law, streaming companies must contact a publisher directly, or contact the U.S. Copyright Office and alert them of the intent to stream a song so that the publishers and songwriters can be paid for their copyright work.
The lawsuits claim that Spotify hasn’t done that.
“Spotify’s illegal behavior and its willful and deliberate disregard of United States
copyright laws is clearly demonstrated in this case, which shows specific efforts by plaintiffs, through SGA, to gain compliance from Spotify to no avail,” the publishers claimed in Wednesday’s lawsuit.
In a separate legal filing on Wednesday, Bluewater aggressively argued against Spotify’s claim that it doesn’t have to obtain a mechanical license. Pointing to federal case law along with Spotify’s own statements in hearings with the federal Copyright Royalty Board, Bluewater argues the company must pay publishers their mechanical license fees.
Bluewater was responding to Spotify’s motion for a more definite statement, which is a rarely used legal argument to quash a lawsuit. Spotify has paid out millions of dollars to publishers and songwriters for mechanical licensing fees.
“As discussed thoroughly in our response, among other things, Spotify’s very public admissions about its obligations under the law to obtain mechanical licenses is completely contrary to what they seemed to float in their motion,” Busch said. “I am at a loss to explain what Spotify was thinking by filing this motion for a more definite statement, but everything we have to say on this subject legally and factually can be found in our response.”
Spotify settled a class action lawsuit earlier this year for $43.4 million and settled a separate lawsuit with the National Music Publishers Association for $30 million.
Publishers can opt out of those settlements and bring separate claims against Spotify.
Reach Nate Rau at 615-259-8094 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @tnnaterau.
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