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Global music publishing group backs Warner in its Spotify spat in India

By | Published on Wednesday 6 March 2019


The recently more chatty International Confederation Of Music Publishers has backed its member Warner/Chappell in its ongoing licensing spat with Spotify in India.

Warner, of course, went to court in India last week ahead of Spotify’s long-awaited launch in the market. The mini-major is yet to agree a deal with Spotify for India, and that deal would cover Warner’s Anglo-American songs repertoire as well as its recordings catalogue.

Although it’s annoying for Spotify not to be able to include Warner’s recordings in its Indian service, not having a licence for the Warner/Chappell songs catalogue is more problematic.

The issue is partly because it means that the digital firm can’t stream recordings owned by other labels that are of songs that are owned – or co-owned – by Warner. And partly because the streaming services don’t really know what songs they are streaming, making it really hard to quickly remove any one songs catalogue.

Spotify’s solution to that problem was to argue that there is a compulsory licence available under Indian copyright law which means it can utilise Warner’s songs without a bespoke direct deal, providing it pays the royalties due under that compulsory licence. Warner argues that the compulsory licence Spotify is relying on doesn’t apply to on-demand streaming services, and it wants a court order confirming that fact. The legal spat is ongoing.

Statements issued by both sides in the dispute were pretty blunt last week, with Spotify pointing out that Warner’s refusal to license at least its songs catalogue could stop it from streaming recordings and songs owned or co-owned by other labels and publishers, to the detriment of said other labels and publishers.

Given that fact, you might expect those publishers which do have deals with Spotify in India to be on the streaming service’s side. Except, Spotify’s interpretation of Indian copyright law extends the reach of compulsory licensing in India. And if there’s one thing all labels and publishers hate more than anything else, it’s the idea of the reach of compulsory licensing being extended.

That is the reason why, shortly after a board meeting of the ICMP, the trade group’s Director General John Phelan stated: “Music publishers worldwide work in the interest of all creators and will fight for appropriate remuneration for all licensed use of their work. At the heart of this problem is the inappropriate use of music and the subsequent undervaluation of songwriters – Indian and international. ICMP and its members express their full support of Warner/Chappell Music in its actions”.

So, fuck off Spotify, basically. Oh, and fuck off SGAE too. Because ICMP’s post-board meeting statements also included new comments on the ongoing issues around the Spanish collecting society SGAE, an issue that has been a key focus of the global trade group since it became more chatty and pro-active last year.

Since ICMP’s last statement on the SGAE problem, the Spanish government has taken an interest in the affairs of the controversial collecting society. And the frequent criticisms of the way it distributes royalties to its members. And the particular allegations over the distribution of TV income that involves a scam known as ‘the wheel’.

On all the latest SGAE developments, ICMP Chair Chris Butler said yesterday: “We very much welcome the recent intervention of the Spanish Minister Of Culture on this issue. Minister [José] Guirao and his team have identified the serious changes required in order to secure a sustainable solution to this longstanding problem”.

“We must ensure Spanish songwriters and musicians are getting accurate returns for their work”, he added, noting that “without fair representation on the board of SGAE and accurate remuneration for their works, the problems of ‘the wheel’ will persist and SGAE’s governance will continue to fall far short of international standards”.