Spotify is getting sued for copyright infringement … again

Written by Éamon Chawke | July 24, 2017


Spotify is getting sued in two separate lawsuits for copyright infringement. A Nashville-based publisher and a songwriter claim that the streaming service did not obtain the necessary licenses to stream works from their respective catalogues.

In one lawsuit, Bob Gaudio (a songwriter and founding member of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons) is suing Spotify for the use of 106 of his compositions. In the other lawsuit, Bluewater Music Services Corporation is suing Spotify for use of the 2,399 songs listed in its complaint.

Both claimants request $150,000 per instance of infringement (the maximum penalty for copyright infringement in the United States). The court documents claim that “Spotify’s apparent business model from the outset was to commit wilful copyright infringements first, ask questions later, and try to settle on the cheap when inevitably sued.”

These lawsuits were filed just a few weeks after Spotify settled a class action lawsuit brought by David Lowery of Camper Van Beethoven, which alleged that the company was “distributing copyrighted material without securing the necessary mechanical licenses.”

Briffa Comment

Some procedural take-away points relevant to copyright disputes:

Retain evidence of creation. In most jurisdictions (including the U.K.), copyright is an unregistrable right (although copyright protection is possible in the U.S.), which means that providing evidence of creation of the work, and evidence of ownership of the copyright in the work, is very often one of the biggest obstacles to enforcement. It is important for authors/creators of copyright works such as literary, musical and artistic works to retain evidence of creation if they wish to enforce the copyright later on.

Retain evidence of change of ownership. The person/entity who is entitled to enforce the copyright in a work is very often not the original author/creator. Literary authors, musicians and film makers frequently assign/licence copyright to third party publishers, music producers and film production companies. It is important for such third parties to execute assignments/licences to give effect to the transfer of title and to retain evidence of such documentation if they wish to enforce copyright later on.

Retain evidence of infringement. Assuming that the author/licensee has the necessary evidence of title to enforce copyright, a big obstacle to recovery of damages/profits for copyright infringement can be an absence of evidence of infringement. Where infringement of copyright is claimed, it is important to monitor/record evidence of infringement such that the value of the damages/profits may be ascertained.

Briffa advises on copyright matters (contentious and non-contentious) as well as other intellectual property, information technology and data protection matters. If you have questions regarding any of the above if you would like to discuss any issue please do get in touch.

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