Spotify v Warner: Streaming dispute turns ugly as Indian court rules on licence

Spotify v Warner: Streaming dispute turns ugly as Indian court rules on licence

Spotify has claimed victory after the Bombay High Court ruled on an injunction lodged by Warner Music Group - although the major has today strongly refuted the DSP's interpretation of the legal judgement. 

Updated: Spotify has now confirmed pricing plans in India as the platform rolls out via the App Store, Google Play and Microsoft Store. A premium subscription is 119 rupees monthly (£1.27). 

However, it has not yet got clarity on its position in relation to copyright infringement, as the statutory licence has not been granted.

Even if Spotify does secure the licence it is seeking, it only covers performing rights – Anglo-American mechanical rights would not be covered.

It has also fallen out badly with one of its biggest music licensing partners, who today described Spotify’s public comments as “appalling”.

“This wasn’t a win for either side, this was a temporary draw,” said a WMG source.

The row escalated to the High Court after Spotify failed to agree licensing terms with Warner Music Group for India, as it appears to have done with other majors. As a result, Spotify attempted to implement a statutory licence usually applied to TV and radio.

Warner Music Group responded by filing an injunction to halt the use of its music publishing rights as part of the launch of Spotify in India.

That’s when things turned really ugly with the streaming giant describing WMG’s legal move as “abusive behaviour”, as well as suggesting it was gamesmanship ahead of global renewal negotiations.

Today (February 26) a Warner Music Group spokesperson said: “We welcome the Court’s decision to direct Spotify to deposit monies with the Court and to maintain complete records of any use of our music as well as all advertising and subscription revenue earned by Spotify. These are positive steps to protect our songwriters’ interests. We’re also pleased that Spotify cannot pursue proceedings for their claim to a statutory license before the Intellectual Property Appellate Board for a period of four weeks.

“Our copyright infringement case will continue on an expedited basis. Spotify's comments yesterday about our fair market negotiations were appalling to us, and we’re shocked that they would exploit the valuable rights of songwriters without a license. That said, we remain optimistic that we can reach a strong, balanced commercial agreement.” 

There have been signs of tension between the major and Spotify. The latest row follows robust comments by WMG CEO Steve Cooper about the ambitions of DSPs such as Spotify to sign artists directly. 

Despite Spotify’s claims of victory in court today, the judge ruled that it cannot pursue a statutory licence for four weeks while legal arguments are considered. Warner Music Group is still pursuing its injunction.

“We’re pleased with today’s outcome,” said a Spotify spokesperson. “It ensures songwriters, artists, labels and publishers will benefit from the financial opportunity of the Indian market and that consumers will enjoy an excellent Spotify experience. As we’ve said all along, we’re hopeful for a negotiated solution with Warner based on market rates.

Spotify opened its Mumbai office a year ago ahead of a planned launch, which has since been delayed. The DSP has launched in North African and Middle Eastern markets.




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