Spotify Sued For $1.6 Billion Over Tom Petty, Neil Young Copyrights

Wixen Music Publishing has filed a copyright lawsuit against streaming platform Spotify for illegal use of their songs.

Wixen Music, which owns the rights to works by Tom Petty, Neil Young, the Doors, Zach De La Rocha, Rivers Cuomo, and Stevie Nicks among others, has sued the Sweden-based streaming service Spotify for using thousands of their songs without a license or without paying compensation.

The Wixen Lawsuit

The suit, filed in a California federal court on Friday, Dec. 29, alleges that Spotify is illegally using many of their songs, including Petty's "Free Fallin'" and the Doors' "Light My Fire." The music publisher is seeking damages worth $1.6 billion in addition to an injunctive relief.

In the suit, Wixen claims that before launching its streaming service in the US, Spotify "attempted to license sound recordings by working with record labels."

However, the publisher claims that in a bid to gain a competitive advantage in the market, Spotify did not make adequate efforts "to collect the required musical composition information." In turn, it failed to procure the right licenses for the compositions owned by Wixen, thereby violating Section 115 of the Copyright Act.

Recorded songs generally have two different copyrights. One is the sound recording, which is normally owned by the record label. The other is the musical composition or the "mechanical license", the ownership of which lies with the songwriter and publisher.

Spotify responded to Wixen's lawsuit by filing a countersuit questioning whether the publisher's clients had given permission to take legal action. The streaming service also claimed that Wixen had not given its clients enough time to opt out of being named in the suit.

Spotify's $43 Million Settlement

Last May, Spotify proposed a $43 million settlement with a number of songwriters, including David Lowery and Melissa Ferrick. They filed class-action lawsuits against the streaming service for failing to pay mechanical royalties to songwriters and publishers for their song compositions.

However, Spotify's proposed settlement did not sit well with everyone and the company was hit with two more lawsuits in July from Bob Gaudio and Bluewater Music. The two separate lawsuits are alleging that Spotify failed to acquire the proper licenses to stream thousands of songs from both publishers' catalogs and claimed that the terms of Spotify's proposed settlement were woefully inadequate.

Wixen's suit also alleges that Spotify's proposed settlement does not adequately compensate Wixen or the songwriters it represents.

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