Video gaming platform Roblox has responded to being hit with a $200 million-plus copyright infringement lawsuit from music publishers in the US, noting its “surprise and disappointment” at being sued.
News of that lawsuit broke yesterday (June 9). It’s being spearheaded by the National Music Publishers’ Association, and backed by indie and major publishers such as Concord, Downtown, Kobalt, Hipgnosis, Reservoir, and Universal Music Publishing Group.
Responding to the accusation of widespread music copyright infringement on its platform, a Roblox spokesperson told MBW: “As a platform powered by a community of creators, we are passionate about protecting intellectual property rights – from independent artists and songwriters, to music labels and publishers – and require all Roblox community members to abide by our Community Rules.
“We do not tolerate copyright infringement, which is why we use industry-leading, advanced filtering technology to detect and prohibit unauthorized recordings. We expeditiously respond to any valid Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) request by removing any infringing content and, in accordance with our stringent repeat infringer policy, taking action against anyone violating our rules.”
“We are surprised and disappointed by this lawsuit which represents a fundamental misunderstanding of how the Roblox platform operates, and will defend Roblox vigorously as we work to achieve a fair resolution.”
The spokesperson continued: “We are surprised and disappointed by this lawsuit which represents a fundamental misunderstanding of how the Roblox platform operates, and will defend Roblox vigorously as we work to achieve a fair resolution.
“We believe the Roblox metaverse provides a massive opportunity for the music industry, and have partnered with major labels and publishers to host successful music events, attended by millions of fans, for such artists as Ava Max, Lil Nas X, Why Don’t We, Royal Blood, and Zara Larsson.
“We are committed to continuing to partner with the music industry to unlock new, creative, and commercial opportunities for artists and songwriters through virtual merchandise, exclusive virtual concerts, Launch Parties, and more.”
In the view of the NMPA, however, the “fundamental misunderstanding” regarding the suit doesn’t come from its own quarters, but from those of Roblox.
Speaking at the NMPA’s Annual Meeting yesterday, the body’s CEO, David Israelite, suggested that despite committing “egregious infringement”, Roblox is continuing to “refuse to pay for the songs they know are on the platform”.
Claiming that “hundreds, if not ultimately thousands of works” had been infringed by Roblox and its users, Israelite then said: “[Roblox] are trying to hide behind a misinterpretation of the DMCA to avoid liability. In reality, Roblox has flouted the bare minimum requirements for Safe Harbor protection.”
“[Roblox] are trying to hide behind a misinterpretation of the DMCA to avoid liability.”
David Israelite, NMPA
“Safe harbor” – as of you who followed the YouTube “value gap” debate in recent years will know – signifies rules within the DMCA (and similar legislation in Europe) that can protect a platform from legal responsibility if user-uploaded copyright infringement is taking place via its technology.
According to Israelite, Roblox thinks it’s insulated from music infringement charges by the DMCA in the US… while music publishers think otherwise.
UPDATE: In a further statement today (June 10), in response to Roblox’s latest comments, NMPA has sent MBW the following: “Roblox’s response sounds just like other tech companies who have been caught stealing music and ultimately pay the price. Having some deals with some labels and publishers to host music events is in no way legally adequate when you operate a massive platform to which music in integral.
“Simply announcing Community Rules and trying to hide behind the DMCA are not sufficient when there are hundreds of thousands of songs being utilized every day without compensating copyright holders. Roblox suggesting that we fundamentally misunderstand how they use music is like a bank robber caught in the act telling the bank it fundamentally misunderstands money.”
“Roblox suggesting that we fundamentally misunderstand how they use music is like a bank robber caught in the act telling the bank it fundamentally misunderstands money.”
Announcing the NMPA lawsuit against Roblox yesterday, Israelite said: “Roblox allows users to build their own video games, and incorporate music from a library [that] Roblox maintains of hundreds of thousands of songs. [This library includes] copyrighted commercial music represented by many [NMPA members]… which Roblox has refused to license.”
He added: “Roblox has committed egregious infringement, but what makes it even worse is that they have enticed and manipulated mostly children into making tacit agreements and unknowingly stealing from songwriters.
“They’ve made hundreds of millions of dollars by requiring users to pay every time they upload music onto the platform, taking advantage of young people’s lack of understanding about copyright. And then they take virtually no action to prevent repeat infringement or alert users to the risks they’re taking.”
“Recently Roblox has started hosting virtual concerts to promote artists. This is the illusion of being pro-creator. But behind the scenes, they are making millions at songwriters and artists expense.”
David Israelite, NMPA
Israelite nodded to recent collaboration between the music industry and Roblox, with artists such as Lil Nas X, Ava Max, Royal Blood, and Zara Larsson all holding in-game virtual events on the platform.
Interestingly, each of these artists are either signed to Sony Music Group or Warner Music Group, neither of whom’s publishing companies (Sony Music Publishing and Warner Chappell Music, respectively) appear in the NMPA lawsuit.
Warner Music Group acquired a minority stake in Roblox via an eight-figure investment in Q1 this year.
Said Israelite: “Recently Roblox has started hosting virtual concerts to promote artists. This is the illusion of being pro-creator. But behind the scenes, they are making millions at songwriters and artists expense.”
He added: “With the complaint we are filing, we are sending a clear message to Roblox and to the video game industry at large: You cannot build a company on the backs of music creators, refuse to pay them, profit off of users’ naivety and money, and get away with it.”
Roblox, which went public on the NYSE in March, currently carries a market cap valuation of $51.4 billion.
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