Earlier this week, a coalition of 17 music publishers—including Universal Music Publishing Group, Warner Chappell Music and Sony Music Publishing—filed a $250 million lawsuit against Twitter for “massive copyright infringement.”
It is alleged in the suit that Twitter allowed its users to use the platform for sharing songs with copyrighted lyrics without having to obtain a license. This has been going on for several years. Since Elon Musk, entrepreneur and technologist acquired Twitter for $44 Billion last year, the misbehavior on Twitter has only increased. Further, it cited 1,700 copies of songs Twitter allegedly violated.
According to music publishers, other social media platforms are also paying licensing fees for copyrighted material. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act protects platforms from copyright violations of user-uploaded content, but only if they make an effort to remove the material infringing and penalize the users.
Publishers have claimed that Twitter is not doing enough to enforce copyrights, even after being notified.
According to the complaint, “Twitter does not charge for licensing musical compositions” and that this promotes its financial interests, because of how it increases user engagement. The complaint stated that “free, unlicensed, music provides Twitter with an unfair advantage against competing platforms such as TikTok and Facebook.”
Elon Musk’s X Corp., the company that owns Twitter is the only defendant in this lawsuit. It was filed at the U.S. District Court of the Middle District of Tennessee.
David Israelite is chief executive at the National Music Publishers’ Assn. and he said that Twitter stands out as the biggest social media platform to have refused to give licenses on the millions songs it has available. Twitter knows that millions of users leak, launch, and stream music on the platform every day. The company can’t hide behind its [Digital Millennium Copyright Act]And refuse to pay music publishers and songwriters.”
Musk responded by tweeting this week that “current copyright laws in general go absurdly beyond protecting the creator” and adding, “overzealous DMCA are a plague to humanity.”
What Impact Will it Have on Music Discovery?
There is hardly the first time that the music industry has seen the latest technology as a threat to its bottom line, but it is also worth noting that there were also times that the record labels went to great lengths—some of which were found to be illegal—to get songs played.
With its lawsuit, it could be said that the music business is potentially losing out on an important tool of promotion for music discovery.
This is a fact. Bruce Barber is the professional in residence at 88.7 WNHU and general manager of the University of New Haven. He suggested this trend of entrenched organizations that were resistant to change.
Barber added that music publishers are still looking for revenue streams. This may seem like low hanging fruit but it could mean they’re missing out on the bigger picture.
Barber believes that the social media will continue to play a major role in the promotion of music during the digital age.
He explained that it would be shortsighted for Twitter to become an enemy.
Social Media Services Pay for Other Services
YouTube has become an important revenue source for music publishers, songwriters and music labels. It was reported that YouTube paid out $6 billion in royalties to the music business between July 2021 and June 2022.
Given those numbers, it is easy to see why the music publishers aren’t ready to give Twitter a free pass—especially as most of the other social media networks have also made deals with publishers and record labels.
Barber explained that “the YouTube model includes an algorithm which ensures publishers receive payment.” Barber said that although other platforms also pay, in this case, publishers might be doing themselfs a disservice. It’s possible that they will miss out on reaching an audience. Artists should be paid in a digitally-based world.