Wixen Music Publishing, the company that manages rights to compositions from the late Tom Petty, Neil Young, Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, and Rage Against The Machine, is suing Spotify for over $1.6 billion, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Wixen filed suit in California on December 29 alleging that the streaming service is currently providing songs like Petty’s “Free Fallin” and The Doors’ “Light My Fire” without licenses, and therefore, without properly compensating the artists.
Spotify contends that Wixen has no right to litigate on the artists’ behalf, as songwriters have agreements with Wixen to allow the publisher to negotiate licensing deals, but those contracts say nothing about suing. The streaming service recently tried to settle another, similar suit in the amount of $43 million to resolve a class action from songwriters spearheaded by David Lowery and Melissa Ferrick. In that suit, the songwriters claimed that they have not received mechanical compensation (royalties) from their streams on Spotify. The company also paid $30 million in unpaid royalties in March 2016 to the National Music Publisher’s Association.
Spotify is also battling another set of lawsuits, including one from the founder of Frankie Valli And The Four Seasons, Bob Gaudio, which alleges that Spotify has failed to comply with Section 115 of the U.S. Copyright Act. In that case, the plaintiffs assert that Spotify failed to send “notice of intention” to reproduce their music online.
Meanwhile, Spotify has also been accused of creating its own fake artists to populate its playlists in an effort to avoid paying real artists for streams that would have been garnered if they were included instead. All in all, the beleaguered streaming giant clearly has some work to do to repair both its reputation and its relationships with its primary source of income.