Ministry of Sound takes on Spotify in legal battle

Dance music brand claims that playlists created by Spotify's users infringe the copyright of the label's compilation albums.

Can music fans be sued for compiling a playlist of their favourite songs? In what promises to be a landmark legal case, the Ministry of Sound is suing Spotify for alleged copyright infringement to prevent users of the streaming service replicating the playlists of its dance compilation albums.

Entertainment group Ministry of Sound has applied to the High Court for an injunction that would force Spotify to delete playlists compiled by users which “copy” the track listing and sequencing of the record label’s hit compilations. Ministry of Sound is also seeking costs and damages.

Sales of compilations such as The Sound Of Dubstep Classics and Ibiza Annual 2013 are booming. But whilst the individual tracks contained on the albums are licensed by their record companies to Spotify, the Swedish music platform which boasts a catalogue of 20 million songs, the branded Ministry compilations are not.

Lohan Presencer, chief executive of Ministry of Sound, the London nightclub opened in 1991, which then expanded into recorded music, called on Spotify to take down users’ playlists which directly mirror the track-list and running order of the Ministry albums and include the title “Ministry of Sound”.

Presencer argued that “a lot of research goes into” curating the compilations. “What we do is a lot more than putting playlists together,” he said. “The value and creativity in our compilations are self-evident. It’s not appropriate for someone to just cut and paste them.”

Spotify has rejected Ministry’s demands, pursued in a series of legal letters. The Swedish-based music service, launched in 2008 and which has 24 million users, last month launched a “browse” feature to encourage music fans to discover and share their own playlists.

Spotify, which has sought to negotiate a licensing deal with Ministry for four years, declined to comment on the action.

But a spokesman said: “Spotify’s goal is to grow a service which people love and ultimately want to pay for.  Every single time a track is played on Spotify, rightsholders are paid - and every track played on Spotify is played under a full license from the owners of that track. We want to help artists connect with their fans, find new audiences, grow their fan base and make a living from the music we all love.”

The case rests on whether the order in which particular songs are sequenced – rather than the songs themselves – is protected by intellectual property law.

If the Ministry is successful, the ruling could have wider implications. A club DJ, whose living is based on mixing together a unique sequence of tracks, could injunct a rival who copied the same setlist.

A radio station, operating a commercially successful playlist, could sue a rival for playing the same songs in the same order.

The Ministry cited as precedent a 2010 High Court ruling which found that the fixture lists for the English and Scottish football leagues were copyright protected.

But the US courts threw out a comparable digital infringement claim. Marvel comics sued the makers of the City of Heroes online computer game because it allowed players to imitate the characters owned by Marvel.  The judge described Marvels claims as “false and sham”.

Jim Killock, director of the Open Rights Group, who campaigns for digital freedom, said: “It’s vital that Spotify is able to provide users with the opportunity to make their own playlists. But if those playlists are then proven to have violated copyright they should be taken down.”

The best-selling Now! compilation series is available on Spotify, although the brand’s owners, Universal and Sony are both minority shareholders in Spotify.

The Ministry of Sound, founded by James Palumbo, the entrepreneur who has donated a reported £700,000 to the Liberal Democrats and was appointed a peer by the party last month, has sold more than 50 million compilation albums.

Ministry’s albums and singles enjoy huge download sales on iTunes. Spotify, founded to provide a legal alternative to web piracy, argues that streaming tracks does not “cannibalise” paid-for downloads.

The Ministry action follows the decision by Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke to pull his Atoms For Peace side-project from Spotify after complaining that the service, which has yet to post a profit, did not pay sufficient royalties to new artists. Spotify, which offers unlimited access to its catalogue for £10 a month, currently has around 6 million paying subscribers.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: IT Infrastructure Engineer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is looking to find a...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Engineer

    £21000 - £23600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

    Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Liverpool - up to £28,000

    £22000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: This is a large multi-site operation...

    Recruitment Genius: Salesforce Developer

    £50000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued business growt...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss