Wixen Music Publishing, which represents hits by the likes of Neil Young and Tom Petty, is suing Spotify for at least $1.6bn – claiming that the platform is illegally under-paying songwriters while handing “outrageous annual salaries to its executives”.
The Los Angeles-based publisher filed a lawsuit on Friday (December 29) in California alleging that Daniel Ek’s platform is hosting tens of thousands of Wixen-managed songs without a sufficient mechanical copyright license.
It seeks statutory damages in excess of $1.6bn – or $150,000 per song – for ‘willful copyright infringement’.
Wixen – whose repertoire also includes works by The Doors, The Black Keys and Rage Against The Machine – also seeks to force Spotify to ‘develop and implement procedures for identifying and properly licensing songs’.
The action has been triggered by the arrival of the US Music Modernization Act, which was introduced by Congressman Doug Collins in December.
“We’re just asking to be treated fairly. We are not looking for a ridiculous punitive payment.”
Randall Wixen (pictured)
Although Wixen praises the work of the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) in helping shape the legislation, the company objects to one provision which – once the bill becomes law – would affect publishers’ ability to sue Spotify (and other streaming services) for infringing mechanical copyrights after the date of January 1, 2018.
Wixen president Randall Wixen said in a statement today that “unfortunately the bill disenfranchises our clients from legal redress for infringements made of their songs without proper licenses by various streaming services.”
Wixen has declined to participate in a recent settlement offer from Spotify to a class action led by songwriters David Lowery and Melissa Ferrick – which accuses Daniel Ek’s company of infringing mechanical copyrights in the US.
That $43m settlement offer was made by Spotify in May last year, but Wixen says that ‘the proposed settlement is inadequate, because too much of [it] is going to legal fees, and because the terms of the go-forward license in the settlement are not in [our songwriters’] long-term best interests’.
Wixen says that it remains keen to find an ‘amicable settlement ‘ with Spotify for its ‘past infringements and unlicensed uses, and seeks to work out a go-forward license which is fair to all parties’.
But it has some very strong words for the streaming platform, which is widely expected to attempt a stock flotation this year via a ‘direct listing’ on the NYSE.
“Spotify has more than $3 billion in annual revenue and pays outrageous annual salaries to its executives and millions per month for ultra-luxurious office space in various cities.”
Randall Wixen said: “We are very disappointed that these services will retroactively get a free pass for actions that were previously illegal unless we actually file suit before January 1, 2018. Neither we nor our clients are interested in becoming litigants but we have been faced with a choice of forfeiting rights and damages, or taking action at this time.
“We regret that this otherwise admirable proposed bill has had this effect, and we hope that Spotify nonetheless comes to the table with a fair and reasonable approach to reaching a resolution with us. We are fully prepared to go as far forward in the courts as required to protect our clients’ rights.”
Wixen added: “We’re just asking to be treated fairly. We are not looking for a ridiculous punitive payment. But we estimate that our clients account for somewhere between 1% and 5% of the music these services distribute. Spotify has more than $3 billion in annual revenue and pays outrageous annual salaries to its executives and millions per month for ultra-luxurious office space in various cities.
“All we’re asking for is for them to reasonably compensate our clients by sharing a miniscule amount of the revenue they take in with the creators of the product they sell. Music fans should be able to enjoy Spotify, knowing that their favorite artists are being treated fairly.”Music Business Worldwide