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The Beat Goes On: Ministry of Sound sues Spotify for copyright infringement

Are you signed up to Spotify? Have you created an ‘Ibiza Annual 2013’ playlist to pay homage to your summer pilgrimage to the White Isle? Then you may have got Spotify in hot water!

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Ministry of Sound claims that Spotify has refused to delete their subscriber’s playlists that recreate existing Ministry of Sound compilation albums to the point where “Ministry of Sound” can be found in the actual playlist title.

Ministry of Sound launched proceedings in the UK High Court early last month, seeking an injunction requiring Spotify to remove the copy cat playlists. Ministry of Sound is also seeking damages and costs. Ministry of Sound has come to the end of their tether with Spotify as several rounds of legal letters have failed to settle the dispute.

The case rests on whether the order in which particular songs are sequenced – rather than the songs themselves – is protected by intellectual property law. Ministry of Sound do not deny that Spotify has the rights to stream all the tracks on the offending playlists, Ministry of Sound themselves do not own the copyright to many of the tracks on its own compilations. The licence of the majority of the tracks comes from other record labels.

This is not the first time Ministry of Sound have turned to the legal system to protect their commercial interests.  In 2010 thousands of letters were sent out on behalf of the record label, one of which accused the recipient of illegally making available an album and demanding the accused to pay £350 or face court proceedings for infringing the rights of the label.

So what about the other compilation labels? The infamous Now! That’s what I call music compilation will mark 30 consecutive years of production when Now! 86 is released on 18 November 2013. The contrast with the Now! compilations and Ministry of Sound is that the former are a joint venture of industry giants Sony and Universal. The two heavyweights own the majority of the tracks on their playlists, and earn royalties every time they are streamed.

The closest legal comparison that can be made with Ministry of Sound’s allegations is that of the “Football Live” database compilation. The UK Court of Appeal in Football Dataco v Sportradar found that compiling the database “may sometimes involve some skill…but it is not creative skill” and therefore the ‘Football Live’ databases were not protected by copyright. Ministry of Sound will argue that their copyright is founded in the skill of the artistry in creating the compilation. Perhaps we will see Ministry of Sound promoting individual producers to evidence the creative process and skill that goes into creating their albums.

We will keep you in the loop as to what the High Court has to say when it hands down their judgment. If you have any copyright or intellectual property issues then please don’t hesitate to contact one of our team.

Andy Boyde – Sports Consultant

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