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Published: 2018/01/03

Publishing Company of Tom Petty, Neil Young and More Suing Spotify for $1.6B Over Copyright Infringement

Marc Millman

Spotify continues to deal with a barrage of lawsuits over the past year, with the latest coming in the form of a copyright accusation coming from Wixen Music Publishing, who claim that the music streaming giant has been using songs from the likes of Tom Petty, Neil Young and more without appropriate copyright compensation to the publisher and artists, The Hollywood Reporter reports.

Wexen’s roster of songwriters also includes the likes of The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, Rage Against the Machine’s Zach De La Rocha and Tom Morello, Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, Stevie Nicks, Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, David Cassidy and more. As THR notes, the Wexen v. Spotify suit, which can be read here, claims the streaming service is illegally using over 10,000 songs, including mega-hits like Petty’s “Free Fallin’” and The Doors’ “Light My Fire.”

The copyright issue of the lawsuit falls under Section 115 of the U.S. Copyright Act, which says that a “notice of intention” must be sent to publishers, along with appropriate monetary compensation, before a reproduction of the song in question can be used. The same section of the Act has been cited in previous lawsuits brought against Spotify, including one brought to the company by a group of songwriters lead by David Lowery and Melissa Ferrick. That suit reached a settlement of $43 million, though the new Wexen case springs from the company’s wish to argue that settlement.

“The Settlement Agreement is procedurally and substantively unfair to Settlement Class Members because it prevents meaningful participation by rights holders and offers them an unfair dollar amount in light of Spotify’s ongoing, willful copyright infringement of their works,” Wexen writes.

The suit was filed before January 1 by necessity, with a new law proposed, dubbed the Music Modernization Act, that would change the laws surrounding streaming services’ use of songwriters’ work, including dismissing the need for the aforementioned “notice of intent.”

“We are very disappointed that these services will retroactively get a free pass for actions that were previously illegal unless we actually file suit before Jan. 1, 2018,” Wixen president Randall Wixen tells THR. “Neither we nor our clients are interested in becoming litigants, but we have been faced with a choice of forfeiting rights and damages, or taking action at this time. We regret that this otherwise admirable proposed bill has had this effect, and we hope that Spotify nonetheless comes to the table with a fair and reasonable approach to reaching a resolution with us. We are fully prepared to go as far forward in the courts as required to protect our clients’ rights.”

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