Lawsuit from music publishers alleges ‘massive’ copyright infringement, and that Twitter “routinely ignores” takedown requests
More legal drama for Elon Musk’s Twitter, after a fresh lawsuit was filed against the platform seeking more than $250m (£197.7m) in damages.
The lawsuit was filed in a federal court in Tennessee by the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) – on behalf of 17 music publishers that represent some of the biggest artists in the music business.
Last month former janitors at Twitter offices in New York City filed a lawsuit against Twitter over their abrupt termination in December 2022.
They allege they were fired and not given the chance to reapply for positions when new cleaning staff were hired, as per local laws in New York.
The NMPA represents a group of 17 music publishers in the US including EMI Consortium Songs, Sony Music Publishing, BMG Rights Management, Polygram Publishing, and Universal Music Publishing Group.
It’s lawsuit alleges Twitter has enabled copyright violations involving nearly 1,700 songs.
The lawsuit filed at the Federal District Court in Nashville, also alleges that Twitter “permits and encourages infringement” for profit.
It alleges the situation has not improved since Elon Musk bought the company last October.
“This is a civil action seeking damages and injunctive relief for Twitter’s willful copyright infringement,” the lawsuit alleges. “Twitter fuels its business with countless infringing copies of musical compositions, violating Publishers’ and others’ exclusive rights under copyright law.”
“While numerous Twitter competitors recognise 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,” it added.
The NMPA alleged that Twitter continues to “reap huge profits from the availability of unlicensed music without paying the necessary licensing fees for it.”
“By design, the Twitter platform became a hot destination for multimedia content, with music-infused videos being of particular and paramount importance,” the lawsuit alleges.
“Videos draw much higher rates of engagement than posts that merely include text, images, or animated GIFs,” the lawsuit alleges. “Audiovisual tweets, and especially ones containing Publishers’ copyrighted works, attract and retain users to the Twitter platform, drive ad impressions, and advance Twitter’s key metrics and economic interests.”
“The Twitter platform is now awash with infringing videos featuring music, including those uploaded by or streamed to Tennessee residents,” the lawsuit added.
And the lawsuit pointed out that social media companies including TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat have entered into agreements with music publishers to compensate artists.
“Twitter knows perfectly well that neither it nor users of the Twitter platform have secured licenses for the rampant use of music being made on its platform as complained of herein,” the lawsuit alleges.
“Nonetheless, in connection with its highly interactive platform, Twitter consistently and knowingly hosts and streams infringing copies of musical compositions, including ones uploaded by or streamed to Tennessee residents and including specific infringing material that Twitter knows is infringing,” the lawsuit alleges. “Twitter also routinely continues to provide specific known repeat infringers with use of the Twitter platform, which they use for more infringement.
“Twitter profits handsomely from its infringement of Publishers’ repertoires of musical compositions,” the lawsuit stated. “Twitter has repeatedly failed to take the most basic step of expeditiously removing, or disabling access to, the infringing material identified by the infringement notices.”
“Twitter has also continued to assist known repeat infringers with their infringement,” the lawsuit added. “Those repeat offenders do not face a realistic threat of Twitter terminating their accounts and thus the cycle of infringement continues across the Twitter platform.”
The NMPA also said that “Twitter’s change in ownership in October 2022 has not led to improvements in how it acts with respect to copyright.”
“On the contrary, Twitter’s internal affairs regarding matters pertinent to this case are in disarray,” it added.
NMPA cited Twitter’s downsizing of “critical departments involved with content review and policing terms of service violations”, and the resignations of trust and safety chiefs Yoel Roth and Ella Irwin.
Twitter has also recently pulled out of the EU’s disinformation code of practice.
This lawsuit presents a fresh headache for new CEO Linda Yaccarino, the former head of advertising at media giant NBCUniversal, who became the new boss of the troubled social media firm earlier this month.
At Twitter she is to oversee business operations, with Musk remaining as executive chairman and chief technology officer.