Spotify sued for $1.6bn in unpaid royalties

Ben Beaumont-Thomas
Spotify have been hit with another in a string of lawsuits. Photograph: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

Music streaming service Spotify has been sued by a music publishing company for $1.6bn (£1.18bn), for hosting songs it allegedly doesn’t have the full rights to.

Wixen, a Californian company that collects royalties on behalf of artists including Tom Petty, Neil Young, Janis Joplin and the Doors, alleges that Spotify “took a shortcut” when it cut deals with major labels to host their back catalogues.

The suit states that under the US Copyright Act, each song has two copyright claims: one to the recording, and the other to the composition. Wixen claims that Spotify didn’t obtain the composition rights in their deals, and is seeking damages of $150,000 per song, for over 10,000 songs.

Spotify has not yet commented on the suit, but has faced similar claims in the past. In 2015, the company launched a “publishing administration system” to more fully recompense royalty holders, after metal label Victory Records claimed it was missing out on composition royalties, but Spotify has nevertheless faced further lawsuits since. In 2016, it paid over $20m in outstanding royalties to a number of publishers via the National Music Publishers’ Association, while in May 2017, it settled a lawsuit with three small publishers, including the estate of Jaco Pastorius, for over $43m.

Spotify has two outstanding lawsuits filed against it in July 2017, from publishers including Bob Gaudio of the group Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

The company is the most successful in the music streaming business, with over 60m paying subscribers. It is reportedly valued at $19bn, and is expected to be floated on the stock market later this year.

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