By any measure, streaming accounts for a large part of how people listen to music now; in a world that is increasingly cloud-based, it only makes sense that our music should move on from the realm of the tangible as well. Digital music has faced a bumpy road to get where it is today, from the earliest days of Napster, but it has largely reached a place of relative peace between artist, publisher, and service, if not quite happiness between the three. But a recent case against Spotify illustrates the cracks that still exist in the current system and the ongoing struggle to ensure fair compensation to those making the music we stream.
Spotify has been hit with two lawsuits for copyright infringement, with seemingly thousands of songs in the Spotify catalog at issue. The lawsuits were brought by Bob Gaudio, one of the founding members of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, as well as the Bluewater Music Services Corporation, which handles the rights to songs from numerous artists. The thrust of both suits is that Spotify does not have the necessary full license of the songs in question and have therefore not paid the required compensation to either party. Bluewater specifically is seeking the full statutory damages allowed for each case of infringement, which is $150,000.
The complicated matter of administering the licenses and rights of artists has proven to be a thorn in the side of Spotify for some time. The streaming music company recently settled a class-action copyright infringement case for $43 million, wherein the plaintiffs argued that Spotify didn't do enough to identify and contact the composers of works to license their songs. While Spotify does work with different music publishers and other representatives of artists, those bodies do not represent the entirety of all rightsholders, as both Spotify and its detractors would note.
While legal troubles are never good news, the spate of copyright lawsuits is certainly not what Spotify wants to contend with, as the company is thought to be eyeing a multi-billion dollar IPO in the near future. In the settlement for the class-action suit, plaintiffs were given til September to opt out of the settlement, suggesting that further aggrieved artists and publishers could soon seek lawsuits of their own. While Spotify may be making what it considers to be its best efforts at compensating artists, these lawsuits show that IP rights are nothing to be trifled with.