While Spotify reportedly prepares for a coming initial public offering, having recently filed with the SEC, the streaming service has had to contend with several legal obstacles, including a recent $1.6 billion lawsuit from California-based publisher Wixen Music Publishing.
Launched by Randall Wixen in 1978, Wixen Music Publishing represents songs from artists including Tom Petty, the Black Keys, Neil Young, The Mavericks, and Rhiannon Giddens.
Wixen Music Publishing filed the suit on Dec. 27, 2017. In the lawsuit filing, 10,000 song copyright numbers are listed among those Wixen alleges Spotify has streamed without a proper license. The statutory penalty is a maximum of $150,000 per song.
“We don’t expect a jury or judge to award us that much but we will ask for the maximum for our clients,” Wixen tells MusicRow.
Part of the Wixen Music Publishing lawsuit stems from the company leader’s dissatisfaction with a previous class action lawsuit. In May 2017, Spotify reached a $43 million settlement to a class action lawsuit that had been filed by songwriters Melissa Ferrick and David Lowery. In 2016, they merged their suits into one legal action suit, initially seeking $150 million.
Wixen Music Publishing has been one of many publishers who spoke out against the settlement.
“The settlement meant $43 million for everyone that had not already settled their suits,” Wixen says. “We don’t like the settlement and we don’t like that lawyers representing the class action suit will get a large percentage of the money that comes from it. Probably $15 million of that will go to the lawyers.”
Wixen decided to file its own suit. However, a recent legal move necessitated the expediting of the suit’s filing. On Dec. 21, Doug Collins introduced the Music Modernization Act, which was supported by music companies including ASCAP, BMI, and NMPA. The bill intends to simplify the music licensing process in the modern-day era, and increase royalties to songwriters.
However, the introduction of the act also forced Wixen Music Group’s hand to file a suit against Spotify in order to protect their clients.
“It’s a really good act,” Randall Wixen tells MusicRow. “But on page 82 of that act is a clause that says if you don’t file a lawsuit against a music streaming company by Jan. 1, 2018, you lose your rights to get compensated. If that act was passed, and we hadn’t filed a suit by Jan. 1, we would have forfeited that right. It would retroactively give a free pass for a streaming service that has infringed on music rights in the past to build a service worth maybe $20 billion once it goes public. I didn’t want to have to tell clients that they can’t be compensated properly because we didn’t file in time,” Wixen says.
“We are continuing talks with Spotify,” he sums. “We want a fair go-forward license. We love [Spotify’s] service and we want a fair part of what is owed to us.”
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