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Wixen boss likes the Music Modernization Act and “loves” Spotify’s service, despite the $1.6 billion lawsuit

By | Published on Wednesday 10 January 2018

Wixen Music Publishing

The boss of the music publishing firm that recently sued Spotify for $1.6 billion has confirmed he is a fan of the Music Modernization Act that seeks to solve the American mechanical rights mess that is behind his lawsuit. Although he reiterated that it was actually one element of those proposals that forced him to go legal in the first place.

As previously reported, Wixen Music sued Spotify for mega-bucks damages late last month over unpaid mechanical royalties. This despite the company participating in an earlier class action on Spotify’s unpaid mechanicals, the final settlement of which is still to be confirmed, partly because Wixen has been pushing for a better deal.

These and other lawsuits – against Spotify and other streaming firms – all stem from the fact that there is no collecting society in the US able to offer a blanket licence covering the mechanical rights in songs.

So while Spotify can pay the performing right royalties also due to songwriters and music publishers via the collective licensing system, when it comes to the separate mechanical royalties it must identify the song contained in every track uploaded to its platform by a label, work out who controls the rights in that song, and then send that writer or publisher the paperwork and royalties required by law.

With no comprehensive and publicly available database of music rights ownership information, Spotify and its agent the Harry Fox Agency has struggled to ensure every writer and publisher due mechanical royalties has been paid. Hence all the lawsuits.

The Music Modernization Act being proposed in US Congress would set up a mechanical rights collecting society and introduce a blanket licence. And while there are critics of the proposals in the music community – mainly from songwriters who are concerned about how the new society will be governed – there are also many supporters.

That includes Randall Wixen, who has told MusicRow “it’s a really good act”. But the music publisher has an issue with one element of said act, a provision which – if passed – would prevent individual writers or publishers launching new litigation over unpaid mechanicals.

Wixen confirmed last week that this had motivated his new lawsuit, though expanded on that point in the MusicRow interview. He explained: “On page 82 of that act is a clause that says if you don’t file a lawsuit against a music streaming company by 1 Jan 2018, you lose your rights to get compensated. If that act was passed, and we hadn’t filed a suit by 1 Jan, we would have forfeited that right”.

He went on: “It would retroactively give a free pass for a streaming service that has infringed on music rights in the past to build a service worth maybe $20 billion once it goes public. I didn’t want to have to tell clients that they can’t be compensated properly because we didn’t file in time”.

Concluding he stated: “We are continuing talks with Spotify. We want a fair go-forward licence. We love [Spotify’s] service and we want a fair part of what is owed to us”.