Business News Digital Labels & Publishers Legal Top Stories

Spotify to remove recordings from India’s oldest label following legal action

By | Published on Thursday 25 April 2019


There’s a little secret that they teach you at law school. It’s a clever little trick that only lawyers know. It goes like this: if you’re negotiating a deal with a company, try to remember to actually do the deal. Deal making’s super fun, see. And sometimes you get all distracted with the fun times and forget to do the deal. Spotify was having so much fun negotiating its licensing deal with India’s oldest record label Saregama, it forgot to do the deal. And now Saregama wants its music taken off the streaming platform.

Spotify recently went live in India, of course. It first started talking to Saregama – the music company that began life over a century ago as the Indian wing of EMI – in February 2018. A year later, as the streaming firm’s long awaited Indian launch got closer, Spotify asked Saregama if it would send over its recordings catalogue so it could be ingested and therefore be ready to stream at launch, assuming a deal could be done.

However, it seems, a deal wasn’t done. And yet, as Spotify switched on in India, Saregama’s recordings were available to its users. Which is why the music firm headed to Delhi’s High Court “seeking [an] ex parte injunction to restrain the defendants, directors, proprietors etc from doing any act including exploitation / use of the plaintiff’s works as filed in the digital form, ie sound recordings/songs, including the underlying literary and musical works contained therein which are in infringement of the plaintiff’s works”.

Spotify has seemingly confirmed that it will indeed remove Saregama’s music from its platform in an almost speedy fashion. A court filing notes that a legal rep for Spotify has said that “the defendant does not consider this litigation as an adversarial litigation. He submits that whatever work infringed the copyright of the plaintiff would be taken off / deleted by the defendant from its platform within ten days from today. The defendant shall remain bound by the above submission made in court”.

Which is all nice and lovely. And will amuse, I’m sure, good old Warner Music. Because it – of course – has had its own spat with Spotify in India. The mini-major hadn’t reached a deal with Spotify for the Indian market as it went live there, and therefore wanted the streaming firm to remove any recordings that are of songs published by its Warner/Chappell division (or at least those that are recordings of Warner/Chappell published songs that the publisher licenses directly in the digital space).

Spotify countered that it reckoned it could rely on a compulsory licence under Indian copyright law for those works. Warner angrily disagreed. Both sides said some snarky things. Warner went legal. The dispute is ongoing.

Of course that legal dispute centred on Warner’s songs not its recordings, whereas Saregama is mainly requesting the removal of its tracks from Spotify’s Indian service. And deleting recordings from a streaming platform is much easier than deleting songs, due to tedious music rights data issues.

Though the Saregama legal complaint does reference the company’s song copyrights as well as its recordings, so, who knows? Either way, Saregama moans, Spotify removes the content. Warner moans and, well, Warner can fuck off. Sounds sensible to me.