Wixen Music Publishing, which owns works by Tom Petty, Neil Young, Weezer, the Doors and more, has sued Spotify for using thousands of songs allegedly without license and compensation, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The publishing company is reportedly seeking damages worth at least $1.6 billion, plus injunctive relief.
Wixen's lawsuit follows several lawsuits that have focused on Spotify's alleged failure to pay royalties on a song's musical composition. Recorded songs have two separate copyrights: The sound recording, which is typically owned by the record label, and the musical composition (also known as the "mechanical license"), which is owned by the songwriter and publisher.
The Wixen suit reads: "Prior to launching in the United States, Spotify attempted to license sound recordings by working with record labels but, in a race to be first to market, made insufficient efforts to collect the required musical composition information and, in turn, failed in many cases to license the compositions embodied within each recording or comply with the requirements of Section 115 of the Copyright Act."
A representative for Spotify declined to comment. A representative for Wixen referred Rolling Stone to the complaint, but declined to comment further.
Last May, Spotify agreed to a $43 million settlement in a similar case, a class action suit led by songwriters David Lowery and Melissa Ferrick (a judge still needs to approve the settlement). Some, however, were not satisfied with the settlement, including Bob Gaudio – a founding member of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, who filed a lawsuit in July – and Wixen.
In its lawsuit, Wixen accuses Spotify of failing to obtain either a direct license or a compulsory license to use the songs in their catalogue. They also claim Spotify outsourced this task to a licensing and royalty service, the Harry Fox Agency, that was "ill-equipped to obtain all the necessary mechanical licenses."
Wixen's roster also includes Zack De La Rocha and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, Steely Dan's Donald Fagen, David Cassidy, Stevie Nicks, Kenny Rogers and Kim Gordon. In September, many of these artists spoke out against the Lowery/Ferrick settlement, though they did so in a court statement filed by Wixen. Spotify has since questioned whether Wixen has been authorized to speak on behalf of their clients in this manner, noting that standard administrative agreements typically allow publishers to negotiate licensing details but don't say anything about litigation.
Per THR, Spotify's lawyers filed court papers Friday claiming Wixen "sent a letter to its clients stating that it would submit Requests for Exclusion in their names unless – within a short time frame – the client affirmatively provided Wixen Music with contrary instructions. But that letter does not confer the requisite authority on Wixen Music. In sending the letters, Wixen Music effectively assumed that the recipients' silence would grant it the power to opt the recipients out of the certified class. But that approach is contrary to law: because the right to opt out of a class action is an individual right, any attempt to exercise that right without express authorization is invalid."