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NMPA settles with Roblox

By | Published on Tuesday 28 September 2021


Bad news all round for fans of messy and contentious litigation, because the US National Music Publishers Association has only gone and settled with gaming platform Roblox. This is no fun at all.

When the NMPA announced its members were suing Roblox for “no less than $200 million” in June over all the unlicensed music on the gaming platform, the publishers were accused of “fundamentally misunderstanding” how the gaming set-up worked. By Roblox that is.

“We do not tolerate copyright infringement”, the gaming platform said, before bigging up all its happy partnerships with the music industry which were unlocking “new, creative, and commercial opportunities for artists and songwriters through virtual merchandise, exclusive virtual concerts, launch parties, and more”.

“Having some deals with some labels and publishers to host music events is in no way legally adequate when you operate a massive platform to which music in integral”, NMPA boss David Israelite hit back. “Simply announcing community rules and trying to hide behind the [safe harbour provisions in US copyright law] are not sufficient when there are hundreds of thousands of songs being utilised every day without compensating copyright holders”.

Concluding, the NMPA CEO stated: “Roblox suggesting that we fundamentally misunderstand how they use music is like a bank robber caught in the act telling the bank it fundamentally misunderstands money”.

Good times. But no more. The NMPA and Roblox yesterday announced “an agreement that settles any previous claims against Roblox and sets the foundation for future partnerships with global publishers that will unlock new creative and commercial opportunities on its platform”.

Roblox already has some music licensing deals in place, including on the songs side. But it hopes that through the NMPA partnership more publishers will now come on board. And then yet more unlocking can occur. “Roblox will work closely with the global music publishing industry to help them unlock new ways for music to be more meaningfully integrated into the global Roblox community”, the company said yesterday.

Confirming all this, a much more conciliatory Israelite said yesterday: “We are extremely pleased to have found a way forward with Roblox as it continues to offer a unique platform for musicians and songwriters in the metaverse. Roblox understands that music has the potential to play a more integral role on its platform. I appreciate Roblox’s willingness to work with us in pursuit of advancing the interests of publishers and songwriters and look forward to seeing how they expand virtual experiences through music”.

Meanwhile, Roblox’s chief music man Jon Vlassopulos added: “We are delighted to have come to terms with select NMPA members, building on our existing relationships with major publishers. We are pleased that the publishing industry sees the potential of Roblox to be a significant creative and commercial opportunity for its members”.

“Music is a natural way for people to express themselves, be entertained, and connect with likeminded people”, he went on. We strive to offer experiences that bring millions of fans together with the songwriters and artists they love”.

“Roblox currently enables labels and publishers to reach millions of fans at once in hyper social, immersive environments such as launch parties and virtual concerts”, he continued. “Moving forward, we are committed to partnering with the music industry, as a whole, to create an exciting new social era of the music business which engages fans and artists in an unprecedented way in the metaverse”.

With the NMPA having also reached an agreement with Twitch this month – another platform that had been much criticised by the group – who have the publishers got left to moan about? Oh, there’s still Twitter. Phew.