Monday 2 September 2013 saw Ministry of Sound, the well-known dance music brand, launch UK copyright infringement proceedings against the music-streaming service Spotify on the grounds that it has refused to take down users’ playlists that copy many of Ministry’s compilation albums.
In particular, Ministry have applied for an injunction that requires Spotify to delete any infringing playlists and to permanently remove its users that copy Ministry’s compilations. Damages and costs are also sought against Spotify.
As an initial point, in order to qualify for copyright protection Ministry must establish that the selection and arrangement of the songs in its compilations constitute its own “intellectual creation”. In doing so, Ministry may argue that its compilations constitute database rights as defined by Section 3A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, namely:
“[A] ‘database’ means a collection of independent works, data or other materials which –
(a) are arranged in a systematic or methodical way; and
(b) are individually accessible by electronic or other means”.
It is not so much whether Ministry’s compilations constitute a work in the eyes of the CDPA 1988 that poses the main challenge, but whether a claim of infringement against Spotify stands up; Spotify clearly sees little point in paying extra licence fees for the right to play Ministry’s albums when they already pay fees for each individual song that comprise the compilations anyway. Given its refusal to pay a licence fee to reward Ministry’s song-selection skills, it therefore comes as no surprise that Spotify deny any infringement (as stated by Ministry’s Chief Exec Lohan Presencer in his related blog post).
However, IPCopy wonders whether Ministry will argue that the compilations are literary works and that Spotify’s actions fall within Section 23 CDPA, which deals with the secondary infringement of possessing or dealing with an infringing copy. S.23 states:
“The copyright in a work is infringed by a person who, without the licence of the copyright owner –
(a) Possesses in the course of business;
(b) Sells or lets for hire, or offers or exposes for sale or hire;
(c) In the course of business exhibits in public or distributes; or
(d) Distributes otherwise than in the course of business to such an extent as the affect prejudicially the owner of the copyright,
an article which is, and which he knows or has reason to believe is, an infringing copy of the work”.
The UK High Court will be the judge of that. In the meantime, IPCopy has noticed a growing sense of ill-feeling towards Ministry across many social networks, with many individuals and businesses within the music industry believing that users of streaming websites such as Spotify use the services as a legal alternative to music piracy.
Nick Bowie 5 September 2013