Twitter, the popular social media platform, is facing a massive legal battle as the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) files a lawsuit on behalf of 17 prominent music publishers. These publishers represent some of the biggest artists in the music industry, and they claim that Twitter has been engaging in widespread copyright infringement, causing significant harm to their exclusive rights under copyright law.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Tennessee, highlights Twitter’s alleged disregard for copyright laws. It includes a comprehensive list of approximately 1,700 songs that have been repeatedly flagged for copyright violations, yet Twitter has failed to take appropriate action. The NMPA is seeking substantial fines of up to $150,000 per violation, emphasising the seriousness of the issue at hand.
Interestingly, this copyright problem predates Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter for a staggering $44 billion last year. According to unnamed employees cited by The New York Times, negotiations for a licensing deal between Twitter and music labels had already reached a stalemate due to the exorbitant costs involved. Estimates suggested that such a deal could have exceeded $100 million per year. Unfortunately, talks fell through completely after Musk took over the company, adding another layer of complexity to the situation.
The lawsuit also brings attention to Musk’s controversial tweets and the recent introduction of Twitter Blue, a premium package offering extended video uploading capabilities. While the flood of copyrighted movies being uploaded to Twitter is not explicitly mentioned, the lawsuit cites specific tweets from Musk that indirectly relate to copyright concerns. In one instance, Musk responded to a user’s complaint about potential account suspension for copyright notices, indicating that he was “looking into” the matter and suggesting they consider subscribing to Twitter to hide infringing content. Another tweet from Musk criticises the overzealous application of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
The primary cause of the alleged copyright infringement on Twitter stems from the presence of music videos, live performances, and other videos synchronised with copyrighted music. The NMPA accuses Twitter of exploiting these videos to enhance its platform’s appeal, thereby increasing user engagement. Despite repeated notifications, Twitter has failed to promptly remove infringing content and has even provided support to known repeat infringers, resulting in a lack of consequences for their actions.
In contrast to Twitter, most other major social networks, including TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat, have successfully negotiated licensing deals with music publishers and labels. Even Amazon-owned Twitch, which faced a brief but intense dispute with the music industry, ultimately reached an agreement to collaborate with the NMPA by September 2021. Recently, companies like Roblox and Peloton have also chosen to settle with the NMPA regarding music copyright.
As Elon Musk announced the imminent appointment of a new CEO for Twitter, NMPA President David Israelite took to Twitter to address him directly, urging the new leader to prioritise the rampant presence of unlicensed music on the platform. This call echoes a similar message conveyed last spring.
While Twitter remains tight-lipped about the lawsuit, Elon Musk has been actively tweeting on other subjects, such as Tucker Carlson and crime in San Francisco. Meanwhile, the newly appointed CEO, Linda Yaccarino, has yet to share any updates on Twitter since her initial letter to the company’s employees.
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Disclaimer: This blog post does not constitute legal advice. Content creators are encouraged to familiarise themselves with copyright laws and consult legal professionals for guidance on their specific situations.