MOS – who are distributed by Universal Music in Australia – are concerned because Spotify, arguably the most recognisable streaming brand internationally, have thus far refused to delete the user-made playlists.The Guardian report that the dance label lodged legal action in the UK high court on Monday with the aim to permanently ban playlists that resemble those of their compilations.
Lohan Presencer, MOS's Chief Executive, said they've been asking for the playlists to be deleted since last year but claims “It's been incredibly frustrating: we think it's been very clear what we're arguing, but there has been a brick wall from Spotify… What we do is a lot more than putting playlists together: a lot of research goes into creating our compilation albums, and the intellectual property involved in that. It's not appropriate for someone to just cut and paste them.”
Presencer added, “Everyone is talking about curation, but curation has been the cornerstone of our business for the last 20 years. If we don't step up and take some action against a service and users that are dismissing our curation skills as just a list, that opens up the floodgates to anybody who wants to copy what a curator is doing.”
The case will throw up yet another legal grey-area in the post-streaming music industry, with a decision on whether the arrangement of a compilation is protected by copyright or not set to be used as a precedent around the world.
Spotify, which launched in Australia last year, and most streaming services regularly use the user's ability to curate their own playlists – and share those lists through social networks – as a key selling point.
Streaming services have been in the wars recently, with Spotify usually taking the brunt of the abuse due to their perception as the 'biggest of the bunch'. The streaming sector is currently unsustainable and Spotify representatives have previously told theMusic.com.au that the only way they will become profitable is if they attract 'millions' more users.
After coming under attack from Radiohead's Thom Yorke and collaborator, Presencer has joined the chorus of critics, writing in a blog for The Guardian he openly declared hostilities towards the service.
Arguing that the major label stake in the business skews their streaming model towards the major label structure, he said that they don't support a key part of MOS's business – the compilations.
“Its business model does not recognise that our products have any material value,” he wrote. “It doesn't consider them worth licensing. Which would be entirely its prerogative had our paths not crossed. But last year we noticed something on Spotify. Users of the service were copying our compilations. They were posting them as their own playlists and calling them 'Ministry of Sound'.
“We assumed it was an oversight on Spotify's part and contacted the company to request it remove the offending playlists. It declined, claiming there was no infringement and it wasn't its responsibility to police its users.”
He continued, “Until now, we've watched Spotify's progress from a distance. But we can no longer remain silent. This so-called saviour of the industry and enemy of the pirates is allowing our compilations to be used without permission and refusing to take action when told about the problem.
“This is a David vs Goliath battle, but one which we have no choice in fighting. If we roll over and don't protect our rights, then we open the floodgates to others. We will not let that happen.”
The claims of major label bias echo what Nick O'Byrne, General Manager of the Australian Independent Record Labels Association has previously told theMusic.
“All label deals with streaming services are protected by confidentiality clauses so we'll never know exactly what major labels are getting paid in comparison to indies,” he said. “That said, you can be sure that the majors try to use their power to force considerably better terms than what indies get.”
Other copyright grey area raised in the industry recently is over whether inspiration counts as copyright infringement. Robin Thicke's global hit Blurred Lines came under attack from the family of Marvin Gaye who were concerned over the similarities of Blurred Lines to the late Gaye's Got To Give It Up.
Thicke, who'd previously admitted that Gaye's song was inspiration and he'd intended to capture the same atmosphere in his track, reluctantly took legal action to get on the front of the issue. Since then, a six-figure settlement offer has been rejected by Gaye's family members.