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Ministry Of Sound settles with Spotify

By | Published on Friday 28 February 2014

Ministry Of Sound

So, this is absolutely no fun whatsoever. We love a bitter court battle here at CMU. And we were quite looking forward to getting some clarity on whether copyright exists in lists of records. So, any talk of sensible and “amicable” out-of-court settlements is not what we wanted to hear at all.

Though presumably the last thing Spotify needs during its sprint to IPO is a bitchy court battle with a high profile music brand, cos that won’t fit with the “we’re the future of music, and the labels think we’re FAB” mantra that will run through any initial public offering prospectus, if and when such a thing is released. And Ministry, presumably, knew that.

So yes, the Ministry Of Sound record label’s legal battle with Spotify is over, the two parties reaching this “amicable” settlement. As previously reported, Ministry objected to Spotify carrying user-generated playlists that replicate the tracklistings of its compilation albums. There were issues around the use of the Ministry trademark in the names of these playlists, but also a claim that copyright should exist in the actual tracklisting, and therefore nicking those track line-ups and plonking them on Spotify constituted copyright infringement.

When Ministry sued on the issue last September, the music group’s boss man Lohan Presencer said that Spotify had been unresponsive to his company’s concerns. He told The Guardian: “It’s been incredibly frustrating: we think it’s been very clear what we’re arguing, but there has been a brick wall from Spotify”.

Confirming that an agreement had now been reached, Presencer told reporters yesterday: “Ministry Of Sound welcomes Spotify’s willingness to work together to reach an agreement”.

Meanwhile Spotify’s James Duffett-Smith said: “Spotify and Ministry Of Sound are pleased to have reached a resolution on amicable terms”.

So, that’s suitably vague. Though sources have told The Guardian that under the deal Spotify has agreed to stop any offending playlists on its system from being searchable by others, and will prevent users from ‘following’ those lists if they find them through other means. However, they won’t actually delete user-created playlists old or new that replicate Ministry compilation tracklistings.

It’s thought that some kind of Ministry app within Spotify might also be under discussion, which would have some kickback for the music firm if people access tracks via its curated playlists (because Ministry itself often doesn’t own the songs or recordings on its complications, it wouldn’t receive royalties for the tracks themselves being played).

The settlement means that the issue of whether copyright exists in curated playlists will not now be considered in court. With some streaming services distinguishing themselves in a crowded market place by hiring curators to make thematic playlists especially for their subscribers, it will be interesting to see what happens if users nick those lists and replicate them as user-generated playlists on rival streaming platforms.