Twitter faces $250Mn lawsuit by music publishers over alleged copyright infringement

Twitter’s chaotic run, specially post its ownership change to Elon Musk, is simply not ceasing to end. Adding to the social media platform’s financial headaches, is a new multi-million-dollar lawsuit by 17 music companies – members of the National Music Publishers’ Association, over alleged copyright infringement. NMPA is the leading advocate for songwriters in the US and boasts of several of the largest music companies among its members. Allegations in these lawsuits –which go up to $150K per work — say that Twitter violated the copyright of songwriters by using their music on its platform without permission.

Some of the more prominent names behind the litigation include Sony Music Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG Rights Management, and Warner Chappell Music. They are seeking more than $250 million in damages for alleged infringement of nearly 1,700 copyrights – damages of up to $150,000 per song. The lawsuit has been filed against Twitter in a federal court in Nashville, Tennessee.

“The Twitter platform, which Elon Musk purchased in 2022 for $44 billion, is rife with copyright infringement,” the group said in the complaint, adding that the social media company’s “unlawful conduct enriches Twitter at publishers’ and their songwriters’ expense.” A favorable verdict for the publishers could set a precedent for significant financial compensation in similar cases, serving as a deterrent to other platforms and individuals who might consider unauthorized use of copyrighted music.

The lawsuit against Twitter reflects the ongoing challenges faced by music rights holders in enforcing copyright protection in the digital age. Online platforms, including social media sites, have become hotspots for copyright infringement, as users freely share copyrighted content without proper authorization. While platforms have implemented some measures to address copyright issues, critics argue that more needs to be done to prevent unauthorized use and protect the rights of creators and copyright holders.

The development of “rampant infringement of copyrighted music” on Twitter is not unexpected, especially since it is one of the few social media giants that do not pay music rights to holders for licenses to their work. This is unlike other major social media platforms like YouTube or Facebook, which are known to have agreements that collectively pay the music industry billions of dollars a year.

In contrast, Twitter benefits from the use of songs it does not pay for. In fact, it “routinely ignores” repeat infringement by users who post tweets that contain unlicensed music and encourages user infringement. Things have not changed when Elon Musk took over the platform last year – since then, he has fired executives and employees alike, revamped Twitter Blue into a new stream of revenue (and devolved the platform into utter chaos in the process), sought to reassure advertisers that have stopped working, and ultimately brought in new blood in the form of Linda Yaccarino as the new Twitter CEO.

“While numerous Twitter competitors respect the need for proper licenses and agreements for the use of musical compositions on their platforms, Twitter does not, and instead breeds massive copyright infringement that harms music creators,” the lawsuit added. “Twitter stands alone as the largest social media platform that has completely refused to license the millions of songs on its service. Twitter knows full well that music is leaked, launched, and streamed by billions of people every day on its platform. No longer can it hide behind the DMCA and refuse to pay songwriters and music publishers,” said David Israelite, President of the National Music Publishers’ Association.

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