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Music publishers sue Twitter over copyright infringement

Taken from | Author: Unknown | Date: 15 June 2023

Sony Music Group and Universal are among 17 taking a legal challenge against Elon Musk’s company.

A group of major music publishers are suing Twitter claiming the social media platform is violating the copyright of songwriters, marking the latest in a number of legal actions against the company since Elon Musk took the helm.

On behalf of 17 music publishers including Sony Music Group and Universal Music Publishing Group, the National Music Publishers’ Association filed a suit in the federal district court of Nashville alleging that Twitter “consistently and knowingly” facilitated and profited from copyright infringement by allowing users to post music without permission.

The suit asks for statutory damages of up to $150,000 on about 1,700 songs it claims were infringed, which would total about $250mn.

This is the latest in a growing number of legal challenges faced by Twitter under Musk. It comes weeks after the Tesla boss announced that he has appointed former NBCUniversal advertising head Linda Yaccarino as its new chief executive — tasked with stabilising the company after his tumultuous takeover.

Rival social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube all have agreements with music publishers designed to compensate songwriters for the use of their works on the platform.

However Twitter, which was bought by billionaire entrepreneur Musk for $44bn in October, has failed to secure any licensing agreements with music rights’ holders.

“Twitter knows perfectly well that neither it nor users of the Twitter platform have secured licences for the rampant use of music being made on its platform,” the complaint, filed late on Wednesday, said. It also alleged that the company had either delayed or failed to take down infringing material — despite receiving thousands of formal notices by the association to do so — and failed to stop repeat infringers.

The failures began before Musk’s takeover, the complaint said, but had worsened since he took the reins. “Twitter’s internal affairs regarding matters pertinent to this case are in disarray,” it said.

Since the buyout, Musk has slashed Twitter’s workforce from 7,500 to about 1,500 employees as part of a cost-cutting exercise, causing disruption internally and raising concerns that multiple teams have been left understaffed.

Under Musk, Twitter has refused to immediately pay many of its vendors, landlords and partners in the hope of keeping down costs, angering some clients and prompting a number of legal challenges. The company also faces legal action from former executives including its former chief Parag Agrawal, over unpaid legal bills.

Twitter previously explored licensing deals with Universal, Sony and Warner in late 2021, but negotiations stalled after Musk took over, according to an earlier report by the New York Times.

On Monday, Yaccarino tweeted her first all company communication: “We have the opportunity to reach across aisles, create new partnerships, celebrate new voices, and build something together that can change the world.”

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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