Updated: Dec 14, 2019
Spotify is in the news again as the independent music services company Bluewater Music files a lawsuit claiming massive, willful copyright infringement by the music-tech behemoth. [See full article in Hollywood Reporter here]
Bluewater is suing for statutory damages valued at $150,000 per instance of unlicensed composition streaming on Spotify.
You can read the full complaint here, which is a great brief education / history in the evolution of “infringement as usual” policies of Big Tech in the music space over the past decade beginning with Napster and other P2P (peer to peer) file sharing technologies.
The issue is complicated by the fact that the major labels own equity shares in Spotify, creating clear conflicts of interest, the likes of which run rampantly unchecked in today’s music ecosystem.
As artist activists claim, no ecosystem can thrive when the well being of the producer of the good is undermined.
In the case of music, the “producer” is the songwriter with his music publishing team / society affiliations along with the artist, musicians, producers, engineers and the record label support teams that make the music into a viable intellectual / physical product.
There are systems in place to provide for clear licensing procedures to be followed by businesses who engage in commerce related to these music products, which are protected by copyrights.
The Bluewater lawsuit alleges that Spotify blatantly failed to follow the correct legal licensing procedures, and ignored warnings and notifications of their failure to comply with these laws.
The attorney representing Bluewater is arguably one of the most famous litigators in the music industry with a reputation of championing the underdog, Mr. Richard Busch.
He previously represented Eminem against goliath Universal, and most recently, the Marvin Gaye Estate in their “Blurred Lines” infringement case.
While Spotify’s minuscule royalty payments to songwriters is a source of contention, many independent record labels embrace Spotify’s wide reach and extensive data mining capabilities as a boon for amplifying emerging artists’ reach.
In addition to naming Spotify as a foul player, the new lawsuit fingers the National Music Publishers Association and its former property Harry Fox Agency (HFA) as players in the debacle.
Perhaps this points to a growing call for fairness and transparency in regards to the music industry, and its new media multinational online technology players.
Only when the spirit of loving cooperation is present can businesses be trusted to their own devices. Apparently, we aren’t there yet, folks.
What do you think about the new lawsuits? Leave your comment below. We want to hear from you.
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