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Music publishers sue Roblox for $200 million, pile more pressure on Twitch

By | Published on Thursday 10 June 2021


Rule number seventeen of the music industry: as soon as the labels get all excited about the marketing potential of the latest super popular online platform, the copyright infringement lawsuits can’t be too far behind. The US National Music Publishers Association yesterday confirmed that a consortium of its members is suing super popular online gaming platform Roblox. And about time too.

The latest copyright litigation against an online operator was confirmed at the Annual General Meeting of the NMPA yesterday. CEO David Israelite said of the Roblox Corporation, which listed on the New York Stock Exchange in March: “They’ve made hundreds of millions of dollars by requiring users to pay every time they upload music onto the platform – taking advantage of young people’s lack of understanding about copyright – and then they take virtually no action to prevent repeat infringement or alert users to the risks they are taking”.

Maybe the NMPA could have a quiet word with some of the people who invested in the Roblox company ahead of the stock market listing. Like, you know, maybe the Warner Music Group. Unsurprisingly, Warner Chappell is not listed among the publishers participating in this new lawsuit. Though Universal Music Publishing is, alongside independent publishers and rights-owners like Kobalt, Downtown, Peermusic, Reservoir, Spirit, Hipgnosis and Pulse. Oh, and Deadmau5 in his own right. For some reason.

The litigation is seeking “no less than $200 million for Roblox’s unabashed exploitation of music without proper licences”, the trade group added. “The lawsuit will ensure songwriters are fully paid for their works on the platform and that Roblox takes seriously its obligations to those who have made its service so popular and profitable. Songs recorded by artists including Ariana Grande, Imagine Dragons, Deadmau5, Ed Sheeran and the Rolling Stones are all being utilised without compensating their writers and copyright holders”.

Israelite also used his speech at the NMPA AGM to further ramp up the pressure on Amazon’s Twitch. The livestreaming platform has been increasingly criticised of late for how few music licences it has secured, despite all the music that appears in streams on the platform, and the fact the company has been actively courting musicians to join its community of creators.

The big record labels and music publishers have got more proactive in issuing takedown notices against Twitch in the last year as livestreaming has become a much bigger talking point in the music community.

And it’s fair to say that the Amazon company has been struggling to deal with those notices, which it has to properly respond to in order to avoid liability for the infringing content on its platform.

Another flurry of takedowns in the last couple of weeks has led to lots more frustration among the Twitch creator community. Alluding to that frustration, the NMPA said in a statement yesterday: “Twitch’s users have paid the price for the platform’s failure to license music, and until they do, NMPA will continue removing music which Amazon refuses to pay for”.

Israelite meanwhile, added: “Twitch should serve its users by fully licensing music which would allow the platform to flourish and copyright owners to be properly compensated”.