Business News Digital Labels & Publishers Legal

Major labels sue mixtape sharing app

By | Published on Monday 6 February 2017


A digital platform specialising in the distribution of unofficial hip hop mixtapes is at the receiving end of the US record industry’s latest big fat copyright infringement litigation, with the Recording Industry Association Of America accusing Spinrilla and its founder Jeffery Dylan Copeland of rampant copyright infringement.

The major labels’ attorney James Lamberth writes in the record industry’s legal complaint that: “Through the Spinrilla website and apps, users with an artist account can upload content that any other user can then download or stream on demand for free, an unlimited number of times. A substantial amount of content uploaded to the Spinrilla website and apps consists of popular sound recordings whose copyrights are owned by plaintiffs”.

While the record industry has a long history of generally turning a blind eye to rising urban talent putting out unlicensed promotional mixtapes featuring tracks and samples from more famous artists – partly because those more famous acts often got started by putting out similar unlicensed mixes – the labels are presumably annoyed at Spinrilla building its own business around such unlicensed mixing.

The fact that an albeit nominally priced premium version is available likely added to the labels’ wrath, as did the fact the Spinrilla app has appeared in a number of recommended music service lists of late, alongside licensed platforms like Spotify. Plus, of course, with sites like MixCloud and the now licensed SoundCloud, there are legitimate places for bedroom producers to post their unofficial mixes in 2017, and start-ups like Dubset are trying to get such mixes licensed and onto Spotify and Apple Music.

In a statement published by The Hollywood Reporter, the RIAA said of its legal assault on the mixtape app: “Spinrilla specialises in ripping off music creators by offering thousands of unlicensed sound recordings for free. Fans today have access to millions upon millions of songs from innovative platforms and services that pay creators – this kind of illicit activity has no place in today’s music marketplace”.

Presumably Spinrilla – which has a whole page on its website about how to submit takedown notices to it in accordance with the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act – will plead safe harbour in response to the lawsuit. Whether it can afford to test that defence in the courts remains to be seen.