The Culture Joint

Music publishers sue Twitter for $250 million over ‘massive’ copyright infringement

Elon Musk and Twitter

The National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) has taken legal action against Twitter on behalf of 17 music publishers representing some of the industry’s biggest artists.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Tennessee, alleges that Twitter enables copyright infringement by hosting numerous unauthorized copies of musical compositions, thereby violating the exclusive rights of publishers and others protected under copyright law.

The NMPA has provided a list of approximately 1,700 songs (included below) that they claim have been flagged multiple times to Twitter as copyright violations, with no action taken by the company. The association is seeking a court order to fine Twitter up to $150,000 for each infringement.

The issue predates Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter for $44 billion last year. According to The New York Times, Twitter had previously struggled to negotiate music licensing deals due to the substantial costs involved, estimated at over $100 million annually. The report also mentioned that licensing negotiations between Twitter and major record labels stalled after Musk’s takeover in the fall of last year. The lawsuit briefly mentions Musk’s tweets and his enhanced Twitter Blue package, allowing longer video uploads. However, it primarily focuses on specific tweets as examples of Twitter’s alleged non-compliance with copyright infringement issues.

One user expressed concern over potential account suspension after receiving five copyright notices, prompting Musk to state that he would look into the matter. He also suggested the user consider enabling subscriptions, implying that paying Twitter would hide the infringing content and prevent it from being flagged. The lawsuit claims that this advice encouraged users to pay Twitter to conceal copyrighted material unlawfully. In a separate tweet, Musk criticized the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), describing it as a “plague on humanity.” While this tweet was not included in the lawsuit, Musk had previously stated that Twitter would support legitimate takedown requests, but repeated misuse of the DMCA would result in temporary suspensions.

The NMPA alleges that most of the copyright infringements reported to Twitter involve music videos, live performances, or other videos synchronized with copyrighted music. It accuses Twitter of exploiting these videos to increase user engagement and the amount of time spent on the platform. The NMPA further asserts that Twitter has failed to remove infringing content even after being notified and has assisted repeat infringers without taking appropriate action. In contrast, most other major social networks, including TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat, have reached agreements with music publishers and labels.

While Twitch, owned by Amazon, faced a short-lived dispute with the music industry in late 2020, the platform announced an agreement to collaborate with the NMPA by September 2021. Recently, companies such as Roblox and Peloton have also settled with the NMPA regarding music copyright issues.

After Musk announced that a new CEO for Twitter would be appointed soon, NMPA President David Israelite tweeted at Musk, urging him to prioritize addressing the extensive amount of unlicensed music on the platform.

Twitter has not responded to requests for comment regarding the lawsuit. Meanwhile, Musk has continued to tweet on unrelated topics such as Tucker Carlson and crime in San Francisco. The newly appointed CEO, Linda Yaccarino, has not tweeted since sharing the content of her initial letter to the company’s employees.

Credit: Kenneth Awotwe Darko

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