Spotify and Ministry of Sound settle music playlists copyright lawsuit
Dance brand Ministry of Sound and streaming service Spotify have reached an “amicable” out-of-court settlement in their legal battle over music playlists.
Ministry sued Spotify in September 2013, claiming that the latter had refused to delete playlists based on Ministry compilations that had been created and shared by users.
The company sought an injunction forcing Spotify to remove the playlists and permanently block others that copied the track listings of Ministry compilations, and used its brand name and/or artwork.
The case caused a stir in legal circles due to Ministry’s belief that while the individual tracks on the playlists had been correctly licensed by Spotify from their original labels, its compilations qualified for copyright protection due to the selection and arrangement involved.
A short statement has been issued jointly by the two companies today, announcing the settlement. “Ministry of Sound welcomes Spotify’s willingness to work together to reach an agreement,” said its chief executive Lohan Presencer.
“Spotify and Ministry of Sound are pleased to have reached a resolution on amicable terms,” said James Duffett-Smith, head of licensing business affairs at Spotify. No further details of the terms have been made public at this point.
The Guardian understands that Spotify will remove the offending playlists from its search engine, and block new users from “following” them on its service. However, the playlists will not be deleted from Spotify.
Many of the playlists remain findable on Spotify today, but will stop appearing when its users search for them over the coming weeks. People will still be able to create Spotify playlists mirroring Ministry compilations for their own personal use.
The settlement means Ministry’s claim that music compilation track listings qualify for copyright protection will not be ruled on by the High Court.
However, it is likely to open the way for more positive discussions between the two companies: for example about making the catalogue of Ministry’s label division available to stream on Spotify, or even to explore ways of creating a business model for its compilations on the streaming service.
The latter is a tricky task, as Ministry does not own the streaming rights to much of the music on its compilations. It could create official Ministry of Sound playlists on Spotify, but the resulting royalties would be paid to the labels and publishers that own the rights to those tracks.
One option – thought to have been under consideration at one point before the lawsuit was filed – would be a Ministry-branded application within Spotify’s apps platform, and a deal to share advertising and/or subscription revenues generated by its listeners.