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Ministry of Sound sues Spotify for copyright infringement

MOSPopular dance brand Ministry of Sound is suing Spotify for copyright infringement, claiming the streaming music company has refused to delete users’ playlists that copy its compilation albums. The company, purveyors of other people’s work strung together quickly and battered out at regular intervals, is seeking an injunction requiring Spotify to remove these playlists and to permanently block other playlists that copy its compilations. The company is also seeking damages and costs.

MOS Chief Executive Lohan Presencer said “What we do is a lot more than putting playlists together: a lot of research goes into creating our compilation albums, and the intellectual property involved in that. It’s not appropriate for someone to just cut and paste them.” Apparently without irony.

While it’s bordering on cliché to say that the music industry has never really known how to deal with the digital age, it doesn’t make it any less true. MOS’s argument is essentially based around the notion that an individual can copyright a song order. It would be flimsy at the best of times, but in an era where music is purchased primarily by individual track, it’s positively facile. While MOS may well highly rate its ability to, you know, put together songs in an order, most people would feel pretty confident in their abilities to do so themselves. Throw in auto-mixers, such as those freely available on iTunes, and what you have would appear to be a redundant business fighting off its own obsolescence.

Except it isn’t obsolete; it’s not even close.  “Our digital compilations business is up 30% this year, and our international digital compilations business is up over 100% this year. That’s double and triple-digit growth year-on-year,” said Presencer.” People still want to use the service, then. Be it ease, brandname, whatever; it’s viable. But others don’t want to use the service and have other options, legal options at that. Standing there like King Canute and ordering the tide back just isn’t going to cut it.

“Spotify only remunerates you for content ownership. It doesn’t pay you if you’re compiling third-party content,” said Presencer.” And nor it bloody should. There are arguments to be had about whether Spotify is good for musicians – many say it does not remunerate them highly enough – but surely it should simply be the artist and the publisher who is liable to make money? MOS are putting songs together in an order; compiling a mixtape. We’ve all done it, and it’s fun, but let’s not pretend it is art. Initial feedback to Presencer’s action has been scornful. It will be interesting to see if his actions do his brand more harm than good.

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