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Both sides make new legal filings in Peloton v the music publishers

By | Published on Tuesday 29 October 2019


The back and forth between fitness company Peloton and a coalition of American music publishers continues. The latter have submitted another legal filing insisting that they have not behaved in an anti-competitive way by coming together to sue the Peloton business for copyright infringement.

More than a dozen independent publishers sued Peloton earlier this year accusing it of making use of their songs without licence. Peloton makes fitness machines that come with screens via which users can access workout videos. The lawsuit alleged that some of those videos contained unlicensed music controlled by the plaintiffs.

Peloton then countersued in April, mainly on competition law grounds. It alleged that it had previously had good relationships with most of the publishers involved in the legal dispute and was negotiating licensing deals with many of them. Those relationships only fell apart, it then claimed, because of interference by America’s National Music Publishers Association.

The fitness firm again summarised those allegations in another legal filing earlier this month. It asked: “Why are we here then? Because of the anti-competitive and tortious conduct of the counterclaim defendant National Music Publishers’ Association. Specifically, NMPA has instigated a co-ordinated effort with the counterclaim defendant music publishers to fix prices and to engage in a concerted refusal to deal with Peloton”.

It went on “Through these actions, NMPA has exceeded the bounds of legitimate conduct for a trade association and become the ringleader of concerted activity among would-be competitor music publishers, all in violation of the antitrust laws. NMPA has also knowingly acted to impede direct negotiations between music publishers and Peloton in a manner that constitutes tortious interference with Peloton’s business relationships. These unlawful actions have harmed Peloton, have harmed competition, and will continue to harm both until enjoined by this court”.

The NMPA has been disparaging of Pelton’s allegations of anti-competitive behaviour ever since they were first made in April, basically arguing that the fitness company is pursuing competition law arguments because it knows the case for copyright infringement is so strong. The publishers have also restated their arguments in a new court filing submitted last week. They cite the so called Noerr-Pennington doctrine under US law, which basically allows competing businesses to collude for the purposes of lobbying or litigation.

They state: “It is settled law that the very conduct identified as the basis for Peloton’s claim – the publishers’ filing of the copyright infringement lawsuit and any alleged joint refusal to license incidental to that lawsuit – is shielded from antitrust liability by the Noerr-Pennington doctrine. Any other conclusion would render Noerr-Pennington meaningless”.

To that end the music publishers urge to court to dismiss all of Peloton’s competition law complaints as outlined in its most recent countersuit filing with the court.