Los Angeles – London-based Ministry of Sound Group Ltd. has commenced a lawsuit against streaming music service Spotify, alleging copyright infringement of its successful dance music albums. The complaint alleges that without authorization Spotify has been allowing its users to stream playlists that replicate its own compilations of popular dance tracks. Ministry of Sound, which owns a famous dance club and routinely rolls out themed compilations, is not arguing that Spotify should not be allowed to let users access the songs themselves. Rather, MoS, as it is often termed by club-goers, hinges its sole infringement allegation on Spotify allowing users to replicate the “playlists”, or order of songs, featured on its dance compilation albums.
While yet to formally answer to the claims, Spotify has expressed in the past that it has the rights to play all of the songs individually and that it can allow users to play them in whatever order they wish without violating copyright law. If Spotify counters the lawsuit, its principle argument will likely be that the mere order in which particular songs are played cannot be copyrighted and that MoS cannot claim copyright infringement of its compilations because they are not original enough to qualify for protection in the first place.
Spotify, which operates out of Sweden and holds rights to stream all of the songs in its impressive 20 million song library, individually obtains licenses from the record companies and owners of each track. In light of this, pleading for Spotify users to stop creating and sharing playlists that mimic MoS’ compilations, CEO Lohan Presencer recently stressed how much work and effort his company puts into selecting songs in a certain order to evoke a particular theme. According to Presencer, the compilations, which have been met with wide commercial success in the dance music world, possess a fundamental element of artistry beyond the songs themselves in that the selection and arrangement of the songs is a protectable creative process.
The case already has many talking and is poised to finally answer the question of copyrightability of modern day compilations. Several commentators have brought up what a win for Ministry of Sound might mean down the line, fearing that DJs could prevent others from replaying songs in the same order that they do, creating potentially endless lawsuits and infringement problems.