Spotify hit with $1.6 billion copyright infringement lawsuit

A music publisher administering songs by Tom Petty and others sued the service.

ByABC News
January 3, 2018, 1:32 PM

— -- Spotify has been sued for at least $1.6 billion by a music publisher claiming the streaming service has been using songs they administer without license and compensation.

Wixen Music Publishing stated in paperwork filed on Dec. 29 and obtained by ABC News that Spotify has been improperly using more than 10,000 of their songs, including Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'," The Doors' "Light My Fire" and Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You."

Wixen is seeking $150,000 for each work infringed, or at least $1.6 billion total.

"Spotify brazenly disregards United States Copyright law and has committed willful, ongoing copyright infringement," the publisher stated in its lawsuit. "Wixen notified Spotify that it had neither obtained a direct or compulsory mechanical license for the use of the works. For these reasons and the foregoing, Wixen is entitled to the maximum statutory relief."

A representative for Spotify had no comment when reached by ABC News.

Spotify, which is expected to go public this year, according to reports, has faced this type of legal trouble in the past. In 2016, the streaming service settled with The National Music Publishers' Association over unmatched and unpaid royalties, according to Billboard magazine. Last May, the magazine reported that Spotify reached a settlement with songwriters who sued for copyright infringement and set up a fund worth $43.4 million to compensate those whose compositions were used without mechanical royalties. Wixen's lawsuit indicates that United States District Judge Alison J. Nathan has preliminarily approved the plan.

Two months later, Spotify was hit with two other copyright infringement lawsuits, brought by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons member Bob Gaudio and Bluewater Music Services Corporation, who, like Wixen, chose not to participate in the settlement. Billboard reported that Spotify's attorneys argued that the company didn't need mechanical licenses.

"The act of streaming does not reproduce copies of sound recordings or musical compositions, and equally does not distribute copies of either sound recordings or compositions," read a memo from their attorneys from that time, according to the magazine.

In court papers, Wixen called the settlement "grossly insufficient to compensate songwriters and publishers for Spotify's actions, as well as procedurally unjust." Wixen Music Publishing President Randall Wixen said in a statement Tuesday that his company is "not looking for a ridiculous punitive payment," but rather, are "just asking to be treated fairly."

“We estimate that our clients account for somewhere between one percent and five percent of the music these services distribute. Spotify has more than $3 billion in annual revenue and pays outrageous annual salaries to its executives and millions per month for ultra-luxurious office space in various cities," he said. "All we’re asking for is for them to reasonably compensate our clients by sharing a minuscule amount of the revenue they take in with the creators of the product they sell. Music fans should be able to enjoy Spotify, knowing that their favorite artists are being treated fairly."