Wixen Music Publishing, which licenses music from about 200 artists, including Tom Petty, Neil Young, The Beach Boys, Missy Elliott, and Janis Joplin, is suing Spotify for $1.6 billion.
The lawsuit was filed in California last Friday, and alleges that Spotify has been using “thousands of songs” without the correct license. Wixen essentially argues that Spotify doesn’t do enough to identify the rights holders of songs it licenses from labels, as the complaint reads, in part:
“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.”
This lawsuit comes as a response to the $43 million settlement with songwriters and publishers that Spotify proposed back in May, and is the latest development in a long-standing dispute over the streaming rights compensation split between labels and publishing companies. Spotify has publicly made label contracts a huge priority, and made sure to solidify its relationship with the three majors — Warner, Universal, and Sony — last summer, before moving forward with plans to go public sometime this year. It also solidified a catch-all deal with Merlin, the rights agency that handles the majority of independent record label licensing, allowing it access to music from thousands of smaller labels.
It seems that Spotify’s bald-faced attempt at wooing songwriters with its Secret Genius program, “a global initiative [to] highlight the contribution songwriters and producers make to the music industry and artists’ careers,” launched in June 2017, did not help the situation as much as intended.