Spotify Faces $1.6 Billion Copyright Lawsuit From Neil Young, Tom Petty Publisher Wixen

By Diana Samson | Jan 02, 2018 10:13 PM EST

Wixen Music is suing Spotify. 

The publishing company that represents musical icons such as Neil Young, Tom Petty, and Stevie Nicks has filed a lawsuit alleging that the streaming company has been using thousands of songs without a proper license.

The complaint alleges that as much as 21 percent of the 30 million songs on the Sweden-born streaming company are unlicensed. Wixen is seeking at least $1.6 billion in damages. 

The lawsuit was filed on Dec. 29 in a California federal court. 

Spotify Takes Another Hit

The lawsuit claims that when Spotify was just starting, it approached music publishers in an attempt to license its sound recordings. However, because of the company's bid to be the first in the market, it failed to properly acquire the requirements dictated by Section 115 of the Copyright Act.

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"Either a direct license from Wixen or a compulsory license would have permitted Spotify to reproduce and/or distribute the Works as part of the Service, including by means of digital phonorecord deliveries ("DPDs"), interactive streaming, and limited downloads," the lawsuit reads. Instead, the company outsourced the role to Harry Fox Agency which "did not possess the infrastructure to obtain the required mechanical licenses and Spotify knew it lacked these licenses."

This is not the first time that the streaming company has faced criticism from the music industry. Last year, Spotify proposed a $43 million settlement to resolve a class action led by songwriters, David Lowery and Melissa Ferrick. A few months later, the company again was hit with two more lawsuits. 

Wixen argued that the proposed settlement does not properly compensate the company and the artists it represents. 

Moreover, company president Randall Wixen also clarified that its clients will not be participating in the Music Modernization Act, a legislation that aims to simplify digital licensing, or the class action suit because of the belief that the proposed settlement is inadequate. 

"[B]ecause too much of the settlement is going to legal fees, and because the terms of the go-forward license in the settlement are not in their long-term best interests," he explained

He also added that all he and his clients want is to be treated fairly and be compensated properly.

Spotify Retaliates

Last week, the music streaming company responded and filed papers questioning whether Wixen Music Publishing has been authorized by its clients to take such aggressive actions. While Wixen notified its clients to submit a request for exclusion, the company assumed that the recipients' silence means an agreement to be opted out of the class action. 

Spotify argued that the approach is against the law. The right to opt out of a class action is an individual right that requires authorization and, therefore, the request of exclusion (which provided a short window of time to wait for a response) was invalid.

Wixen Music Publishing also administers song compositions by Zach De La Rocha and Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine, Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, and Donald Fagen of Steely Dan. 

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