NMPA accuses Spotify of copyright violation over use of lyrics, videos and remix feature

NMPA accuses Spotify of copyright violation over use of lyrics, videos and remix feature

The National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) has demanded that Spotify remove what it says is unlicensed material from the platform, or face legal action.

Music Week has obtained the letter sent to Spotify by the NMPA’s Danielle Aguirre, EVP & general counsel.

The letter outlines its concerns about unlicensed use of musical works in its lyrics, videos and podcasts in the US. It also specifically warns Spotify about its rumoured remix feature, which would allow subscribers to speed up and edit songs to create derivative works.

“...The use of lyrics and music in videos and podcasts on its platform requires rights that must be negotiated directly with rights-holders in a free market,” stated the letter.

Videos are a new feature that Spotify has been rolling out to various markets. Lyrics have been available for some years on Spotify, and Music Week understands that has been an ongoing issue between the NMPA and the streaming platform.

Outlining the NMPA’s complaint on behalf of publishers, the letter added: “It has come to our attention that Spotify displays lyrics and reproduces and distributes music videos and podcasts using musical works without the consent of or compensation to the respective publishers and/or administrators (our members) who control the copyrights in the musical compositions. As such, these uses of musical works on the Spotify platform are not licensed or will soon become unlicensed.

“Spotify thus appears to be engaged in direct infringement by hosting unlicensed musical works in its lyrics, videos, and podcasts, and by distributing unauthorised reproductions, synchronisations, displays, and derivative uses of these musical works to its users. Making matters worse, Spotify profits from such infringement.

“Accordingly, on behalf of our members, NMPA demands that unlicensed lyrics, music videos, and podcasts be removed from the platform or Spotify will face copyright liability for continued use of these works.”

Spotify once again has gone to war with songwriters

David Israelite

A Spotify spokesperson said: "This letter is a press stunt filled with false and misleading claims. It’s an attempt to deflect from the Phono IV deal that the NMPA agreed to and celebrated back in 2022. We paid a record amount to benefit songwriters in 2023, and we are on track to exceed this amount in 2024.

"Spotify is a platform for licensed content. We are committed to the integrity of our platform, and we have a clear process in place for rights-holders to contact Spotify about any content they believe is unlicensed."

Warning the streaming giant about the launch of its rumoured remix feature, the NMPA letter also stated: “Spotify is on notice that release of any such feature without the proper licenses in place from our members may constitute additional direct infringement.”

It follows a recent complaint by the NMPA after Spotify used its audiobook bundling in the US to implement a lower mechanical royalty rate for songwriters. Other DSPs also pay that lower rate for bundling other services in addition to music in the US, with Spotify also noting that it will pay more money overall to publishers and songwriters in 2024.

NMPA President & CEO David Israelite said: “Spotify once again has gone to war with songwriters. In addition to Spotify’s improper use of the ‘bundle’ definition to lower its payments to songwriters and publishers, the platform appears to be rife with unlicensed musical works.

“Today we warned Spotify that they will be held accountable for infringement from using songs and lyrics in videos and podcasts which require licenses that it has not secured. Before Spotify’s ‘bundling’ betrayal, we may have been able to work together to fix this problem, but they have chosen the hard road by coming after songwriters once again.”



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