Business News Labels & Publishers Legal Top Stories

Music publishers accuse Twitter of “massive copyright infringement” in $250 million lawsuit

By | Published on Thursday 15 June 2023


Twitter is being sued by the music industry for hosting “countless” videos that contain unlicensed music. Because – while many in the music community may not be particularly happy with the amount of money paid into the industry by Twitter rivals like TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat – at least those companies have bothered to get themselves some music licences.

The Twitter-targeting copyright lawsuit has been filed with the courts in Nashville by a consortium – no, actually, a coalition, or maybe a congregation – no, fuck it, a convocation of music publishers, including all three majors.

“This is a civil action seeking damages and injunctive relief for Twitter’s wilful copyright infringement”, says the legal filing. “Twitter fuels its business with countless infringing copies of musical compositions, violating publishers’ and others’ exclusive rights under copyright law”.

“While numerous Twitter competitors recognise the need for proper licences and agreements for the use of musical compositions on their platforms”, it goes on, alluding to the TikToks, Instagrams and Snapchats of this world, “Twitter does not, and instead breeds massive copyright infringement that harms music creators”.

Expanding on its theme, the lawsuit continues: “The pervasive infringing activity at issue in this case is no accident. While the Twitter platform began as a destination for short text-based messages, Twitter widened its business model to compete more aggressively with other social media sites for users, advertisers and subscribers”.

“By design”, it adds, “the Twitter platform became a hot destination for multimedia content, with music-infused videos being of particular and paramount importance”.

“Videos draw much higher rates of engagement than posts that merely include text, images, or animated GIFs”, it continues. “Audiovisual tweets, and especially ones containing publishers’ copyrighted works, attract and retain users to the Twitter platform, drive ad impressions, and advance Twitter’s key metrics and economic interests”.

And just in case Twitter is planning on moaning about how damn complicated music licensing is, well, hang on one second, because, well, fuck no. “There is a vibrant existing market for social media companies to pay fees for the use of musical compositions”, the publishers stress.

“Social media companies behind such well-known platforms as TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat have entered into agreements with publishers and other rightsholders that compensate creators of musical compositions for use of their works on those platforms”.

And just in case Twitter is planning on arguing it’s a mere conduit protected from liability for copyright infringement by the pesky safe harbour, well, hang on one second, because, well, fuck no. Twitter needs to be prolific in responding to infringement notices submitted by copyright owners to get that protection.

And, “publishers … have spent significant time and resources to identify specific infringers and specific infringements, and to notify Twitter of them. Those specific infringers and specific infringements already number in the hundreds of thousands. Twitter has repeatedly failed to take the most basic step of expeditiously removing, or disabling access to, the infringing material identified by the infringement notices”.

“Twitter has also continued to assist known repeat infringers with their infringement”, the lawsuit claims. “Those repeat offenders do not face a realistic threat of Twitter terminating their accounts and thus the cycle of infringement continues across the Twitter platform”.

The new lawsuit, coordinated by the US National Music Publishers Association, has been a long-time coming, with Twitter towards the top of the music industry’s digital gripe list for some time. And Elon Musk’s high profile acquisition of the social media firm last year didn’t change anything.

“Both before and after the sale”, the lawsuit confirms, “Twitter has engaged in, knowingly facilitated, and profited from copyright infringement, at the expense of music creators, to whom Twitter pays nothing”.

The publishers want the courts to confirm that Twitter is infringing their copyrights; an injunction ordering the social media firm to stop doing so; and – of course – lots of lovely damages.

Ideally statutory damages of $150,000 for each of the 1700 specific songs that the publishers have identified as being made available on the Twitter platform without licence, which would exceed $250 million.

We await Twitter’s response. Actually, no, we await Musk’s response. That’ll be more fun, won’t it?