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Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Spotify For Unpaid Royalties

December 29, 2015 | Posted by Joseph Lee
Spotify

Billboard reports that Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker singer David Lowery have filed a $150 million class action lawsuit against Spotify. They have retained the law firm of Michelin & Robinson LLP and claim that Spotify “knowingly, willingly, and unlawfully reproduces and distributes copyrighted compositions without obtaining mechanical licenses.”

Spotify is currently negotiating a settlement with the National Music Publishers Association over allegedly letting users play music that hasn’t been properly licensed. They were also accused of not making mechanical royalty payments to music publishers and songwriters. Spotify has reportedly created a $17 million to $25 million reserve fund to pay royalties for pending and unmatched song use. This latest lawsuit was filed yesterday in the Central District Court of California.

The lawsuit states that Spotify “unlawfully distributed” copyright music compositions to over 75 million users, but didn’t identify or locate the owners for payment. They also didn’t give notice of intent to “employ a compulsory license.” They claim that Spotify “publicly” admitted to failing to get the correct license, as well as creating the reserve fund for royalty payments that have been “wrongfully withheld from artists.” The use of songs not lawfully licensed “creates substantial harm and injury to the copyright holders, and diminishes the integrity of the works.”

The songs that were reportedly illegally reproduced or distributed include “Almond Grove” (copyright registration No. PAu003764032); “Get On Down the Road” (No. PAu003745342); “King of Bakersfield” (No. PAu003745341); and “Tonight I Cross the Border” (No. PAu003745338). The complaint states that statutory penalties allow for judgments between $750-30,000 for each song and up to $150,000 per song for willful infringement.

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Spotify, Joseph Lee