Major Music Publisher Sues Spotify For $1.6 Billion

The publishing group that owns the rights to music by Tom Petty, Neil Young, The Doors, The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, David Cassidy, Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, Stevie Nicks and more is suing Spotify for using tens of thousands of songs without a license and compensation. Wixen Music Publishing wants $1.6 billion in damages, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The Wixen lawsuit reads: “Prior to launching in the United States, Spotify attempted to license sound recordings by working with record labels but, in a race to be first to market, made insufficient efforts to collect the required musical composition information and, in turn, failed in many cases to license the compositions embodied within each recording or comply with the requirements of Section 115 of the Copyright Act.”

It isn’t the first legal battle waged against the music giant. In May, Spotify agreed to a $43 million proposed settlement in a class action lawsuit from songwriters led by David Lowery and Melissa Ferrick who claim they weren’t properly compensated for their song compositions. The settlement still needs to be approved by a judge. Two months later, songwriter Bob Gaudio, a founding member of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and another plaintiff sued Spotify for not complying with the copyright act.

According to Wixen, Spotify did not properly obtain a direct license or compulsory license to use its songs. Wixen also says Spotify used Harry Fox Agency to outsource the job, and the company was “ill-equipped to obtain all the necessary mechanical licenses.”

Many of the artists under the Wixen umbrella expressed their displeasure with the Lowery/Ferrick settlement through a court statement that Wixen filed in September. Spotify has challenged Wixen’s authority to speak on the behalf of its clients in this way.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Spotify’s attorneys filed court papers claiming Wixen “sent a letter to its clients stating that it would submit Requests for Exclusion in their names unless – within a short time frame – the client affirmatively provided Wixen Music with contrary instructions. But that letter does not confer the requisite authority on Wixen Music. In sending the letters, Wixen Music effectively assumed that the recipients’ silence would grant it the power to opt the recipients out of the certified class. But that approach is contrary to law: because the right to opt out of a class action is an individual right, any attempt to exercise that right without express authorization is invalid.”

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