Music publishers sue Twitter $250m for unlicensed music

Twitter was sued by over a dozen music publishing companies for allegedly violating copyright laws by allowing its users to upload music to the platform without permission.

Members of the US National Music Publishers’ Association are seeking damages up to $150,000 per song, or $250 million total. They accuse Twitter that it has “completely refused to license music” on its service.

The list included Umbrellaby Rihanna and Single Ladiesby Beyonce, as well as Castle on the Hillby Ed Sheeran. Castle on the Hillwas written by Benny Blanco and was part of a catalogue of 93 songs sold to Hipgnosis in 2019.

According to the lawsuit filed against Twitter, the company “consistently hosts and streams infringing versions of musical compositions”, despite “perfectly knowing that neither it nor its users have secured licenses”.

David Israelite of the NMPA said that Twitter is “the largest social media platform to have refused to license millions of songs from its service”.

Twitter didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry for comment. Its press office automatically sends the poo emoji when journalists contact it.

Elon Musk acquired the group in an autumn $44 billion deal. He is the billionaire CEO of Tesla and SpaceX. The social media group was in negotiations with major music labels about licensing rights, but it is said that these talks have been stalled after the takeover.

The NMPA lawsuit filed in Nashville, Tennessee cited a May 2017 tweet from Musk, 51, where he called the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act a “plague to humanity”.

The lawsuit claimed that Twitter “permits” and “encourages” infringement, so it could continue to make huge profits by making unlicensed music available without having to pay licensing fees.

It claimed that Musk’s acquisition of the platform had not improved its copyright policies. Twitter’s internal affairs are a mess.

Twitter is facing a new challenge as it tries to win back advertisers with its new management. Last week, the veteran advertising executive Linda Yaccarino took over as CEO and declared that Twitter was “on a quest to become the most accurate real-time news source in the world”.