The Ministry of Sounds sues Spotify for copyright infringement

by Redmans on September 23, 2013

The dance music brand the Ministry of Sound is reportedly suing Spotify for copyright infringement after Spotify reportedly refused to delete user playlists that copied the signature Ministry of Sound dance compilation albums.

The lawsuit comes in the wake of the Ministry of Sound apparently warning Spotify in 2012 that failure to remove playlists which copied the structure of its compilation albums could result in legal action. Spotify has failed to do so and the Ministry of Sound therefore launched proceedings in the High Court last week, seeking an injunction requiring Spotify to remove the playlists and to block new playlists that attempt to copy its compilations. The company is also seeking damages for financial loss because of the copyright infringement and its costs.

The Ministry of Sound is suing Spotify under s.3(1) of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1998 for literary copyright infringement for, ostensibly, copying a table or compilation other than a database. In order for a compilation to be copyrighted it must be original, have taken more than a minimum of effort to create it and it must also have been recorded. The latter test is normally assumed in the case of infringement of compilations but the first two tests are often more complicated for the alleged copyright-owner to prove. The question of whether a compilation is sufficiently original to obtain copyright protection has been considered “a matter of degree depending on the amount of skill, judgment or labour that has been involved in making the compilation.” Copyright has previously been found in football pools, timetables, lists of stock exchange prices, race cards and mathematical tables. This case will apparently hinge on whether the structure and order of songs on compilation albums are sufficiently original to allow them to qualify for copyright due to the selection and arrangement involved in putting them together.

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The chief executive of Ministry of Sound, Mr Lohan Presencer, gave the following statement about the action: “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.”

It is expected that – if Ministry of Sound are successful – it may open the floodgates for the compilation business to pursue music publishing services such as Spotify for copyright infringement.

Chris Hadrill, a solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “This is an interesting test case for companies that produce compilation albums – the crux of the case is whether such compilation albums are original enough to qualify for copyright protection and the music publishing world will be watching this case with interest.”

Redmans Solicitors are a firm of employment solicitors in Richmond, offering settlement agreement advice to employers and employees

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