Music Publishers Sue Twitter for $250 Million in Major Copyright Infringement Case
On June 14th, 2023, The New York Times reported that a collection of major music publishers have filed a $250 million copyright infringement lawsuit against the social media giant Twitter. The complaint alleges that Twitter has allowed copyright infringement to “run rampant” on its platform. The case is centered around broad and important questions regarding the liability that internet platforms have for the conduct of third parties. Here, our Florida copyright attorney provides an overview of the music publisher’s lawsuit against Twitter.
Lawsuit: Twitter’s Negligent Permissive User Copyright Infringement
Some of the country’s largest music publishers—including prominent names like Universal, Sony, and Warner Music Group—have sued Twitter for more than $250 million in damages. Among other things, the music publishers are alleging persistent copyright infringement. The lawsuit claims that Twitter allows unlicensed sharing of copyrighted songs—thereby promoting growth for the company at the expense of music creators.
According to the complaint, which was filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, the copyright infringement worsened under Elon Musk. Notably, the publishers argue that Twitter’s competitors, such as TikTok and YouTube, all pay licensing fees for copyrighted music use.
How Copyright Royalties Typically Work for Music
Copyright royalties are the primary source of income for many musicians, composers, and songwriters. These royalties are essentially fees paid to these individuals or their representatives, such as a record label or publisher, for the use or reproduction of their work. The exact royalty structure can be complex, but it essentially comes down to two categories: performance royalties and mechanical royalties.
- Performance Royalties: These are earned when a song is performed publicly, like when it’s played on the radio, in a concert, or streamed on platforms like Spotify. Performance Rights Organizations (PROs) such as ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC in the United States collect and distribute these royalties to the copyright holders.
- Mechanical Royalties: These are paid for the physical or digital reproduction of a song. This could be through sales of CDs, vinyl, or digital downloads. The Harry Fox Agency is a popular organization that collects and distributes mechanical royalties in the U.S.
When it comes to social media platforms, they also need to pay copyright royalties when they host user-uploaded content that includes copyrighted music. Platforms like YouTube use automated systems, such as Content ID, to identify copyrighted material and monetize it on behalf of the copyright holder. For example, the social media platform TikTok recently signed licensing agreements with many major music publishers, ensuring that artists get paid when their music is used in videos on the platform.
Consult With Our Florida Copyright Infringement Attorney Today
At Perkins Law, we are an intellectual property law firm devoted to providing reliable and solutions-forward guidance to clients. If you have any questions about a copyright infringement action, we are here to help. Contact us today to arrange your completely confidential consultation. With an office in Boca Raton, we handle copyright infringement cases throughout South Florida.