A rock musician brought a class action lawsuit seeking at least $150 million against Spotify on Monday, marking the latest dispute over copyrighted songs reproduced by the music streaming service.
The suit, which was brought by rock musician David Lowery and others who allege that Spotify used their works without licenses in an “ongoing campaign of deliberate copyright infringement,” was filed by Los Angeles-based Michelman & Robinson in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
Among the songs that Lowery, a founding musician of rock bands including Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven, alleges have been illegally reproduced by Spotify are “Almond Grove,” “Get On Down the Road,” “King of Bakersfield,” and “Tonight I Cross the Border.”
In an emailed statement sent to the Los Angeles Business Journal, however, Jonathan Prince, global head of communications and public policy at Spotify, based in Stockholm, said that the company was committed to paying songwriters and publishers every penny.
“Unfortunately, especially in the United States, the data necessary to confirm the appropriate rightsholders is often missing, wrong, or incomplete,” Prince said. “When rightsholders are not immediately clear, we set aside the royalties we owe until we are able to confirm their identities.”
He also said that Spotify is currently working with the National Music Publishers Association to pay the royalties set aside and is investing in resources to build a publishing administration system to definitively solve the problem.
According to allegations in the complaint, Spotify has continued to reproduce and distribute copyrighted works to more than 75 million users, despite its failure to identify the owners of certain works.
The complaint, which noted that the Copyright Act provides for statutory damages awards between $750 and $30,000 for each infringed work, and up to $150,000 for willful infringement, also said there were likely hundreds or thousands of class action members.
Earlier this year, Taylor Swift pulled her discography from Spotify, while Adele declined to stream her latest album, “25.” That album ultimately shattered records during its first week on sale, selling over 3.38 million copies in the United States.
According to Spotify Artists, a website which explains how the streaming service works, artists earn an average “per stream” payout between $0.006 and $0.0084.
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