Music labels sued Twitter for copyright infringement in a class action lawsuit filed on Wednesday. The labels claim the social media company used copyrighted music to increase the amount of time users spend on the platform and failed to remove the content after it received notifications to take the copyrighted content down.
The National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) filed the lawsuit on behalf of 17 music publishers who represent artists including Taylor Swift, Beyonce, The Weeknd, RUSH, and many others. Twitter allegedly strayed from other social media competitors who complied with music copyright and acquired the appropriate licenses and agreements to use the artists’ songs, but the lawsuit says Twitter does not follow the exact requirements. The lawsuit claims Twitter “instead breeds massive copyright infringement that harms music creators.”
The NMPA claims to have notified Twitter of more than 300,000 tweets that have infringed on music copyright since December 2021 and says when the NMPA sent Twitter the notice, it included thousands of specific links to tweets that included unauthorised musical compositions. The NMPA is requesting Twitter pay out $US150,000 for each of the roughly 1,700 songs affected, amounting to a total of $US250 million in damages.
The NMPA says Twitter has been rife with copyright infringements since before Elon Musk purchased the platform for $US44 billion in October of last year. The association claims Twitter has heavily profited from the musical compositions, audio, and audio-visual recordings to drive engagement, the lawsuit says. It adds that by “embodying those compositions,” Twitter has been able to “attract and retain users” to “drive engagement, thereby furthering Twitter’s lucrative advertising business and other revenue streams.”
The Music Modernisation Act passed in January 2021, which protects musicians from copyright infringement in online spaces, including in interactive streaming services, and requires digital services to obtain legal licensing before using an artist’s music online. “Twitter stands alone as the largest social media platform that has completely refused to licence the millions of songs on its service,” David Israelite, the president of the NMPA, told The New York Times.
The lawsuit addresses Musk’s complaints against the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which notifies anyone who infringes on copyright laws to immediately take down the content. However, Musk called the DMCA a “plague on humanity” in a tweet last year, writing, “Current copyright law in general goes absurdly far beyond protecting the original creator.”
The association says in the lawsuit that it has entered into agreements with Twitter’s competing social media platforms including TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat. Yet Twitter continues to use algorithms and optimisation to recommend videos and tweets that allegedly act in opposition to the copyright laws.
The lawsuit claims, “Twitter has knowledge, visibility, and real-time control over its streaming activity that it uses to make configuration changes, optimise performance, and tap into interactive analytics.”
This is just the most recent in a barrage of lawsuits filed against Twitter since Musk took over the company, including vendors who claim Twitter had not paid them for their services, former employees who claimed gender discrimination during mass layoffs, and class action lawsuits for failing to pay rent, among many others.
The NMPA’s lawsuit may now create what was already a difficult transition for Linda Yaccarino, who took over as CEO of Twitter last week, into what appears to have become a nearly impossible task to raise Twitter from the sewers of social media.
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