Spotify is being taken to court in the U.K. by the dance music record label the Ministry Of Sound London for copyright violation. The allegation is a surprising one, because it suggests the Ministry Of Sound’s IP is being violated by playlists in Spotify. Spotify‘s playlists are said to be clones of the track lists from the record label’s highly successful dance albums.
The label says it has demanded Spotify take the playlists down repeatedly since 2012, but has seen no response. The suit asks that Spotify delete the playlists and block other playlists that copy the albums in the future, as well as pay damages and costs.
The complication here is that the Ministry of Sounds albums are aggregations of other people’s IP by the label’s own DJs, so the intellectual value of the albums is in the expert curation of the music rather than creating it per se. Consumers buy the albums to tap into the Ministry of Sound’s signature vibe, although the actual buzz comes from someone else’s music. Spotify’s playlists simply curate the same tracks. Thus it’s reasonable that by serving up the playlists, Spotify is violating Ministry of Sound IP and denying the label income, although of course the actual artists will likely receive royalties the other way.
Along with Apple’s iTunes and other digital music services, Spotify is in the vanguard of a revolution in music listening, streaming tracks over the Internet without the end user “owning” the music at any point. This revolution is said to be threatening the traditional “album” format in favor of track-by-track downloads. Spotify has recently faced criticism over its payment of royalties to artists.