The National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) today sent a cease and desist letter to Spotify, accusing the music streaming service of using its members’ copyrighted content without appropriate licensing. The letter was shared by Billboard, and it suggests that Spotify is “hosting unlicensed musical works in its lyrics, videos, and podcasts.”

Spotify has been asked to remove the unlicensed content from its platform or face a “copyright liability” for its continued use. The NMPA is a trade association that represents music publishers and songwriters in the U.S., and the group focuses on protecting music copyrights.

The NMPA claims that while Spotify has mechanical and public performance licenses, the use of lyrics and music in videos and podcasts requires rights that must be negotiated directly with rightsholders.

It has come to our attention that Spotify displays lyrics and reproduces and distributes music videos and podcasts using musical works without the consent of or compensation to the respective publishers and/or administrators (our members) who control the copyrights in the musical compositions. As such, these uses of musical works on the Spotify platform are not licensed or will soon become unlicensed.

U.S. copyright law generally grants copyright owners the exclusive right to, among other things, reproduce, distribute, display, perform publicly, and create derivative works from their copyrighted works under 17 U.S.C. Sn. 106. Violation of these exclusive rights constitutes copyright infringement under 17 U.S.C. Sn. 501.

Spotify thus appears to be engaged in direct infringement by hosting unlicensed musical works in its lyrics, videos, and podcasts, and by distributing unauthorized reproductions, synchronizations, displays, and derivative uses of these musical works to its users. Making matters worse, Spotify profits from such infringement.

Accordingly, on behalf of our members, NMPA demands that unlicensed lyrics, music videos, and podcasts be removed from the platform or Spotify will face copyright liability for continued use of these works.

A spokesperson for Spotify told Billboard that the letter is a “press stunt filled with false and misleading claims.” Spotify went on to say that it paid a “record amount” to songwriters in 2023, and is on track to surpass that amount in 2024.

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