On Tuesday, two independent music publishers filed copyright infringement lawsuits against Spotify based on the streaming company’s failure to obtain the proper licenses needed to stream thousands of musical compositions.
Most people will automatically think musical composition is just a fancy word for a song, after all “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” right? Not quite. Under Copyright Law, songs are defined as either musical compositions or sound recordings. Think of the musical composition of a song as the sheet of music with the notes and lyrics, and the sound recording as the actual audio recording you hear when listening to the song.
Publishers and songwriters own the musical compositions. Streaming services are not obligated to go out and negotiate with every single publisher, but that does not mean they can just stream musical compositions for free. Under the statute, streaming services must notify the music publisher or post a notice with the U.S. Copyright office of its intent to use the musical composition. The statute also sets the licensing rate so do expect to find compulsory licenses at Nordstrom’s Anniversary Sale.
These two lawsuits allege that Spotify did not provide proper notice and continued to use the unauthorized musical compositions. The complaints even go as far as to accuse Spotify of doing this on purpose saying, “Spotify’s apparent business model from the outset was to commit willful copyright infringement first, ask questions later, and try to settle on the cheap when inevitably sued.”
It is important to point out that these music publishers are not the only ones throwing major shade at Spotify. Spotify has paid over $60 million in prior cases alleging the same behaviour, and if Spotify loses these new cases, it is looking at paying $366.4 million more.
Maybe someone should tell Spotify that insanity means doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.