For once, Twitter has gone a couple of days without inciting some sort of “controversy” on the Internet. Or perhaps we’re getting better at tuning Musk’s plaything out. Whatever the case, that blissful peace has come to an end. The National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) has laid a $250 million lawsuit at Twitter’s feet for – you guessed it – violating copyright law.
The NMPA’s lawsuit is on behalf of seventeen music publishers (including Sony and Universal) who themselves are working with some of the industry’s “best” artists. The suit was filed in Tennessee’s federal court, with the claim that Twitter “fuels its business with countless infringing copies of musical compositions, violating Publishers’ and others’ exclusive rights under copyright law.”
“Twitter, play Despacito“
Specifically, the NMPA attacked Twitter’s infringement of these 1,700 songs, with its publishers stating that these were included in various copyright notices to Twitter, which has reportedly done nothing about it, allegedly ignoring “known repeat infringers and known infringements”. The NMPA hopes to fine the platform $150,000 per violation if the court agrees. We’re hardly math geniuses, but the fines could total around $255 million if the court agrees.
Unlike Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and Snapchat, Musk’s venture is one of the few social media platforms without a music licensing deal in place. The NMPA feels that this gives Twitter an “unfair advantage” over those competitors, who all pay the necessary fees to compensate artists (also known as their labels) for the use of their music.
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Had Musk not taken over Twitter in October of last year, it’s possible the issue would have been swept under the rug. According to The New York Times, and the unnamed employees at the company it cites, the company had cut a music licensing deal that would amount to over $100 million per year, with the Times later reporting that the deal had come to a standstill in the excitement of Musk’s purchase.
The NMPA has said the company’s “change in ownership in October 2022 has not led to improvements in how it acts with respect to copyright,” adding, “On the contrary, Twitter’s internal affairs regarding matters pertinent to this case are in disarray.”
Whether the doom-scrolling platform and the NMPA can come to an understanding before the suit is over remains to be seen. It’s unlikely, but possible – especially with someone other than Musk in charge of the day-to-day. That’s certainly what NMPA president David Israelite is after, suit or no, judging by a tweet made when Musk announced his intent to replace himself as Twitter’s CEO.