Spotify sued over songwriter rights

Drummer Patrick Carney and singer Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys perform onstage during the iHeartRadio LIVE performance and QA with The Black Keys at iHeartRadio Theater on June 9, 2015 in New York CityImage copyright
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The Black Keys

Spotify has been hit with a lawsuit that accuses the streaming service of infringing the rights of songwriters and publishers.

Wixen Music Publishing is seeking damages of at least $1.6bn (£1.18bn) – $150,000 for more than 10,000 songs.

The California company represents artists that include Janis Joplin, The Black Keys and Tom Petty.

Spotify declined to comment. The firm has been trying to settle a class action lawsuit brought by songwriters.

That lawsuit, which deals with similar copyright issues, was on course to being resolved in December.

But a group that included Wixen objected to the terms of the roughly $43m settlement, which they argued could yield less than $4 per song.

What is Spotify alleged to have done?

In recent years, Spotify has struck deals with major record labels, resolving potential copyright liabilities.

The deals have been an important new source of revenue for the music industry, which has contracted sharply over the last 15 years.

In its new lawsuit, filed at the end of December in a federal court in California, Wixen said Spotify failed to also address the claims of songwriters and publishers, which have separate rights to the compositions.

Wixen said: “As a result Spotify has built a billion dollar business on the backs of songwriters and publishers whose music Spotify is using, in many cases without obtaining and paying for the necessary licenses.”

Spotify reached a reported $30m settlement with the National Music Publishers Association in 2016 over similar claims.

But the issue continues to trouble the firm, which is gearing up to list its shares on the stock market.

In addition to the new Wixen dispute and the pending class-action suit, Spotify also faces legal actions filed by Bob Gaudio and Bluewater Music Corporation in July. Other firms have also filed suit.

In the July cases, Spotify has argued that the claims are invalid and its use of the music is allowed under implied licenses, among other reasons.

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