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Spotify Under Fire For Failing To Properly License Music — Again
"How many more times does Spotify have to be sued before songwriters will finally be paid for every track? It's time for Congress to step in and update music licensing laws to fix the outdated modes of payments to creators." — Conversations in Advocacy #4
Spotify is facing yet another lawsuit over music creator royalties for allegedly not obtaining proper licenses for thousands of songs available on the popular streaming service.
The $1.6 billion suit against Spotify was filed in California court on Dec. 29, 2017, by Wixen Music Publishing, a company representing clients such as Tom Petty, Neil Young, Steely Dan's Donald Fagen, and Stevie Nicks.
This suit, which marks the latest in a series of legal complaints from music publishers who feel that the streaming giant hasn't done enough to compensate music creators, follows a potential settlement to a class-action case brought by a group of songwriters, including David Lowery and Melissa Ferrick. In May 2017, Spotify proposed a $43 million settlement to cover mechanical licenses it failed to acquire. The settlement was lambasted by many across the music industry as being inadequate.
What's more frustrating for songwriters is that these complaints against Spotify aren't new. They date back at least as far as 2015 when Spotify committed to building a system to pay rightsholders their due share, even when they couldn't be immediately identified, by working closely with the National Music Publishers Association. These unpaid royalties have been estimated at upwards of $25 million.
"One of our core commitments is making sure that everyone involved in the creation of music is paid fairly, rapidly and transparently," Spotify wrote in a blog post in 2015. "We want to fix the global problem of bad publishing data once and for all, and that's why we're making this commitment today."
While statements such as these could be construed as good intentions, the latest lawsuit against Spotify underlines the need for Congress to step in and make sure songwriters — and all music makers — are compensated for their work every time it's played. A number of bills have been introduced into Congress that would modernize laws to ensure music is fairly valued on streaming services, digital radio, terrestrial radio, and wherever music is heard.
At the end of the day, songwriters rightly want to make a living wage off their labor, which doesn't seem too much to ask.
"We're just asking to be treated fairly," Wixen Music Publishing President/CEO Randall Wixen told Variety. "We are not looking for a ridiculous punitive payment. … All we're asking for is for them to reasonably compensate our clients by sharing a miniscule amount of the revenue they take in with the creators of the product they sell."
"Conversations in Advocacy" is your weekend digital tip sheet on music advocacy and the policies that affect music makers and their craft. New installments post every Friday.