Benjamin Appelbaum, Attorney at Law

Copyright lawsuits continue to challenge streaming firms

A growing number of people in New Jersey and across the country rely on online streaming sites like Spotify or Netflix for their favorite movies, TV shows, music and other content. The industry is bringing in a significant amount of money and has, over the years, been the subject of a number of copyright disputes. While the passage of laws like the Music Modernization Act has helped to set a standard moving forward for streaming firms to follow, there are still active legal cases pending that address the issue of streaming providers' responsibility for mechanical licensing.

Spotify, one of the largest firms in the streaming world, is facing a copyright lawsuit from Blue Water Music. The suit argues that Spotify owes the artists that it represents millions of dollars because the company failed to obtain mechanical licenses to play the songs that they wrote. Mechanical licenses provide protection for songwriters, and Spotify in the past settled a significant copyright lawsuit brought by a number of songwriters, including singer Melissa Ferrick. The Blue Water lawsuit was filed in 2017, before the passage of the Music Modernization Act and before the settlement of the Ferrick class action lawsuit.

While online streaming without consent is a copyright violation, the question of mandatory licenses, especially for mechanical copyright, has plagued streaming services like Spotify, as they often failed to follow the proper notice procedure to obtain these licenses. While Spotify has tried to have the lawsuit dismissed on several occasions, the court has ordered the large firm to turn over financial details and make executives available for deposition.

Many artists are particularly concerned about how to protect the value of their works in the digital space. An intellectual property attorney might be able to provide advice and guidance on how artists and musicians can protect their copyrights and other digital rights.

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Benjamin Appelbaum, Attorney at Law - Intellectual Property

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