The popular streaming service, Spotify, has just been hit with a $150 million class action lawsuit, reports Billboard. David Lowery, vocal artist rights advocate and the frontman of the bands Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker, claims Spotify allegedly is reproducing copyrighted material “knowingly, willingly and unlawfully.”
The complaint was officially filed on December 28 in the Central District Court of California. Spotify is being charged with the failure of properly securing mechanical rights as well as reimbursing artists and composition owners. This does not paint Spotify in a good light, especially since they have over 75 million music listeners subscribing as monthly Premium users.
Jonathan Prince, Spotify global head of communications and public policy, recently issued a statement.
“We are committed to paying songwriters and publishers every penny. Unfortunately, especially in the United States, the data necessary to confirm the appropriate rightsholders is often missing, wrong, or incomplete. When rightsholders are not immediately clear, we set aside the royalties we owe until we are able to confirm their identities. We are working closely with the National Music Publishers Association to find the best way to correctly pay the royalties we have set aside and we are investing in the resources and technical expertise to build a comprehensive publishing administration system to solve this problem for good.”
“Mechanical rights” refers to the copyright owner’s control over if and how their music is reproduced. Before any download providers can distribute a song to the public, they must secure a mechanical license. If they are unable to obtain this mechanical license prior to distributing someone else’s music, penalties could result in up to $150,000 per work.
Spotify has copied and shared various versions of Lowery’s work, as well as others, according to Lowery, while not having a proper mechanical license to do so. Because of this, Spotify will also be facing copyright infringement damages that could range from anywhere to $750 to $30,000, according to Billboard.
“We are committed to paying songwriters and publishers every penny,” a Spotify spokesman reportedly told Billboard.
Spotify mentions that the specific data which confirms rights holders is sometimes “missing, incomplete,” or even in some cases just “wrong.” If this is the case, it would mean that the royalties that are owed to the copyright owners will be put on hold until their identity can be verified.
The Spotify spokesman went on to say that the streaming company is working very closely with the National Music Publishers Association to handle this in the best and most appropriate way. They will be planning for the technical expertise to construct a competent publishing administration system to keep problem such as this from happening in the future.
This, of course, is not the first time Spotify has gotten into hot water with people within the music industry. Taylor Swift famously pulled her entire discography from the streaming service in 2014. Spotify then launched a campaign through social media to convince the pop artist to allow her music to be streamed on their service.
— Spotify (@Spotify) November 3, 2014
But they were unsuccessful in convincing her.
“I’m not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment I don’t feel fairly compensates artists,” Swift said at the time.
In March of 2012, Patrick Carney of the blues/rock band Black Keys said “Spotify isn’t fair to artists,” adding, “for a band that makes a living selling music, streaming services are not a ‘feasible’ option.”
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