US songwriter Melissa Ferrick is seeking damages to the tune of $US200 million
Embattled online music streaming service Spotify faces its second multimillion-dollar lawsuit in as many weeks after Massachusetts-based songwriter Melissa Ferrick filed a $US200 million (about $288 million) complaint against the company, accusing it of "wholesale copyright infringement".
According to Music Business Worldwide, Ferrick filed her class action complaint in the US District Court in Los Angeles — the same court in which fellow muso David Lowery filed his own $US150 million class action at the end of 2015 — on 8 January, alleging the company has knowingly engaged in copyright infringement of her own tracks, and those of many others, over the past three years.
"Spotify did not and does not have a comprehensive system of music publishing administration in place necessary to license all of the songs embodied in phonorecords which it ingests and distributes by means of interactive streaming and temporary downloads," Ferrick's complaint reads.
"Rather than decline to distribute phonorecords embodying musical compositions that are unlicensed, however, Spotify elected instead to engage in wholesale copyright infringement."
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Prior to Lowery's suit filing, Spotify had acknowledged it was in the process of establishing a system to better monitor and moderate track licensing on the service, saying: "We are working closely with the National Music Publishers Association to find the best way to correctly pay the royalties we have set aside and we are investing in the resources and technical expertise … to solve this problem for good."
However, as with Lowery's complaint, Ferrick not only alleges the copyright infringement itself, but that it was willful on the part of the company, meaning that songwriters who have been infringed upon are able to seek up to $US150,000 in damages per unlicensed track played through the service.
"The known failure by Spotify to obtain licenses for all of the musical compositions that it is exploiting caused it to recently announce that it 'will invest in the resources and technical expertise to build a comprehensive publishing administration system to solve this problem'," the complaint continues. (Read it in full via MBW here.)
"That is an investment and process that Spotify should have undertaken before it decided to reproduce and distribute phonorecords embodying unlicensed musical compositions to the Service's millions of users, not over four years after Spotify launched the Service in the United States.
"At this point, Spotify's failure to properly obtain licenses is … systemic and willful copyright infringement for which actual and statutory damages are the remedy."
Ferrick has defended the lawsuit on social media, telling a commenter who said they "can't imagine there is actually $200m in actual damages" to be sought: "The issue is not whether or not Spotify rechaes new people, the issue is that they have been willfully infringing on © for three years."
"The integrity of a © is essential," Ferric wrote. "This is not about folks who listen to Spotify or the impact Spotify may or may not have on people 'discovering' my music, it is purely a © infringement."
To another commenter, she elaborated: "It's not about you as a listener or downloader of music, it's abotu Spotify not getting licenses."
"It's not about the listener," she repeated. "It's about willful infringement. They know they are infringing and stream the unlicensed songs anyway. We are standing up for songwriters."