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Spotify Hit with Cease and Desist by Music Publishers Over Alleged Unlicensed Lyrics

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The National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) has sent Spotify a cease and desist letter alleging the streaming platform hosts “unlicensed lyrics, music videos, and podcasts.”

“It has come to our attention that Spotify displays lyrics and reproduces and distributes music videos and podcasts using musical works without the consent of or compensation to the respective publishers and/or administrators (our members) who control the copyrights in the musical compositions,” the letter (via Billboard) reads in part. “As such, these uses of musical works on the Spotify platform are not licensed or will soon become unlicensed.”

Written by NMPA’s executive vp and general counsel Danielle Aguirre, the letter doesn’t refer to specific unlicensed works. However, it continues by claiming Spotify is in “direct infringement by hosting unlicensed musical works in its lyrics, videos, and podcasts and by distributing unauthorized reproductions, synchronizations, displays, and derivative [uses] of these musical works to its users. Making matters worse, Spotify profits from such infringement.”

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The letter also refers to a recent report that Spotify plans to allow users to “remix” songs directly on the platform, with options to slow down, speed up, mash together, and “otherwise edit” tracks. According to the NMPA, launching “any such feature without the proper licenses in place from our members may constitute additional direct infringement.”

Ultimately, the NMPA “demands” Spotify remove the purportedly unlicensed works from their platform or “face copyright liability.”

A Spotify spokesperson vehemently pushed back against the NMPA’s claims, describing the letter as a “press stunt filled with false and misleading claims” and an attempt to “deflect from the Phono IV deal that the NMPA agreed to and celebrated back in 2022.”

The statement continues, “We paid a record amount to benefit songwriters in 2023, and we are on track to exceed this amount [globally] in 2024. Spotify is a platform for licensed content. We are committed to the integrity of our platform, and we have a clear process in place for rightsholders to contact Spotify about any content they believe is unlicensed.”

News of the cease and desist letter comes after Billboard reported that Spotify’s new royalty model could earn songwriters and publishers an estimated $150 million less in comparison to the previous payout rate.

Editor’s Note: As an alternative to Spotify, consider unlocking the power of SoundCloud with their best plan for artists, Next Pro, which includes unlimited uploads, advanced profile controls, enhanced growth opportunities, cross-platform distribution, and more.

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