Spotify fires back at music publishers’ legal threat over alleged lyrics infringement, calling it ‘false and misleading’

Spotify fires back at music publishers’ legal threat over alleged lyrics infringement, calling it ‘false and misleading’
Spotify fires back at music publishers’ legal threat over alleged lyrics infringement, calling it ‘false and misleading’

Earlier today (May 15), the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA), sent a strongly-worded legal letter to Spotify on behalf of NMPA members.

The letter to Spotify included various allegations, one of which was that the music streaming service is hosting unlicensed lyrics on its platform.

As we noted earlier today, licenses for lyrics would typically be granted by the NMPA’s members, including prominent indie publishers plus the three major publishers Sony Music Publishing, Warner Chappell, and Universal Music Publishing Group.

According to the NMPA’s letter, Spotify “appears to be… hosting unlicensed musical works in its lyrics, videos, and podcasts, and by distributing unauthorized reproductions, synchronizations, displays, and derivative uses of these musical works to its users.”

The NMPA demands in its letter, signed off by NMPA EVP & General Counsel, Danielle Aguirre, that any unlicensed lyrics, music videos, and podcasts available on Spotify “be removed from the platform or Spotify will face copyright liability for continued use of these works ”.

Spotify has now responded. In a statement issued to MBW, a Spotify spokesperson calls the NMPA letter “a press stunt filled with false and misleading claims.”

Spotify further suggests that the music publishers’ legal threat over alleged infringement on its platform is “an attempt to deflect from the Phono IV deal that the NMPA agreed to and celebrated back in 2022.”

Spotify’s spokesperson appears to be referencing the controversy that continues to swirl in the songwriter and publisher community over the streaming platform’s decision to reclassify its Premium tiers as ‘bundles’ – combining music and audiobooks — in the US.

Under a 2022 legal settlement – ​​aka Phonorecords IV – music publishers and music streaming services agreed that ‘bundle’ services in the States are permitted to pay a lower mechanical royalty rate to publishers and songwriters than standalone music subscription services.

Spotify’s new classification of bundles on its platform has raised the ire of the NMPA and its publisher members who are now being paid a lower mechanical royalty rate for in the US by Spotify following its ‘bundle’ reclassification.

Speaking on the MBW Podcast on April 30, NMPA boss David Israelite confirmed that the situation will “likely end up in a legal conflict.”

As we explained in an earlier report, the NMPA’s campaign against Spotify’s mechanical royalties/’bundles’ play is separate to the legal warning issued by the NMPA today to Spotify today over the platform’s use of lyrics, podcasts, and music videos.

It’s hard to argue that the two matters are completely unrelated, however: the NMPA’s legal challenge to Spotify over lyrics etc. could be viewed through a certain lens as the music publishers’ way of fighting back RE: Spotify’s ‘bundle’ trick.

Here is the Spotify spokesperson’s statement in full RE: the NMPA’s lyrics warning letter: “This letter is a press stunt filled with false and misleading claims. It’s an attempt to deflect from the Phono IV deal that the NMPA agreed to and celebrated back in 2022.

“We paid a record amount to benefit songwriters in 2023, and we are on track to exceed this amount in 2024. Spotify is a platform for licensed content.

“We are committed to the integrity of our platform, and we have a clear process in place for rightsholders to contact Spotify about any content they believe is unlicensed.”

“We are committed to the integrity of our platform, and we have a clear process in place for rightsholders to contact Spotify about any content they believe is unlicensed.”

Spotify spokesperson

Within Spotify’s statement, the streamer repeats – in slightly different words – its claim made last month when it confirmed the bundle/ mechanical royalties change: that globally, the company “is on track to pay publishers and societies more in 2024 than in 2023.”

Spotify reports in its Loud and Clear economics report that it paid out nearly $4 billion globally to publishing rights holders – who represent songwriters – over the last two years.

The company said in February that it delivered USD $9 billion last year to containers across record companies and music publishers, plus independent distributors, performance rights organizations, and collecting societies.

On Wednesday, the Songwriters and Composers Wing of the Recording Academy came out in support of the NMPA and its members.

“Songwriters provide the foundation of the music we love, and they should always be paid fairly,” said the Recording Academy Songwriters & Composers Wing in a statement.

It added: “The CRB settlement reached in 2022 marked a welcome step forward in cooperation between digital platforms and publishers.

“We are disappointed that Spotify appears to be focused on cutting costs at the expense of songwriters instead of continuing in that spirit of cooperation.

“The Recording Academy Songwriters + Composers Wing continues to stand with songwriters, and we will work to ensure they are fully valued and appropriately compensated for the work they do that enriches our lives.

Music Business Worldwide

 
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