Dance music brand Ministry of Sound is suing Spotify for copyright infringement, claiming the streaming music company has refused to delete users' playlists that copy its compilation albums.
Ministry of Sound launched proceedings in the UK High Court on Monday, and is seeking an injunction requiring Spotify to remove these playlists and to permanently block other playlists that copy its compilations. The company is also seeking damages and costs.
Chief executive Lohan Presencer claims that his company has been asking Spotify to remove the playlists – some of which include "Ministry of Sound" in their titles – since 2012
"It's been incredibly frustrating: we think it's been very clear what we're arguing, but there has been a brick wall from Spotify," said Presencer.
A Spotify spokesperson confirmed to the Guardian that it had received the lawsuit, but declined to comment further.
While Presencer is known to be no fan of Spotify according to industry sources, the lawsuit came as a surprise to the company. The Guardian understands that Spotify has held talks in the past with Ministry of Sound about licensing tracks from its label division, albeit without a deal being struck.
The case will hinge on whether compilation albums qualify for copyright protection due to the selection and arrangement involved in putting them together. Spotify has the rights to stream all the tracks on the playlists in question, but the issue here is whether the compilation structure - the order of the songs - can be copyrighted.
Similar arguments featured in a high-profile case in 2010, when the High Court ruled that the English and Scottish football leagues could protect their fixture lists on copyright grounds. However, this ruling was later overturned on appeal.
"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," said Presencer.
Playlists are an increasingly prominent feature on Spotify's service, which provides its users with a catalogue of more than 20m music tracks to stream.
Spotify's 24 million users have created more than 1bn playlists since its launch in 2008. In August, Spotify launched a new "Browse" feature to help people discover one another's playlists more easily.
"Everyone is talking about curation, but curation has been the cornerstone of our business for the last 20 years," said Presencer.
"If we don't step up and take some action against a service and users that are dismissing our curation skills as just a list, that opens up the floodgates to anybody who wants to copy what a curator is doing."( Collapse )