The dance music compilation label Ministry of Sound has decided to sue Spotify for damages and loss of revenue on the grounds that user created playlists on their site mirror those released by the company and thus fall under the wing of intellectual property laws. Ministry of Sound is a label that focuses exclusively on selling compilation mixes of artists from many different labels to make a profit. Their main claim is that the compilation of these tracks in the order in which they are presented fall under section 3 of the Copyrights, Designs, and Patents Act of 1988 (which was brought into question in a similar case involving fixture lists for Scottish and English football leagues, but was eventually overturned) and thus are subject to protection under the law (Bluefin). Barring the fact that Spotify is a draconian service that has only helped to temporarily suspend the impending demise of the music industry, this lawsuit is even more ludicrous in its attempts to protect a business model on the grounds of failure to adapt to a changing market. As Lawrence Lessig states in his book The Future of Ideas, “And so it is today with us: those who prospered under the old regime are threatened by the Internet; this is the story of how they react.”
The internet has brought us one step closer to finally achieving a free form and constantly flowing exchange of information from person to person and group to group all over the world. The problem with this free form transfer of information is the word “free”, which, in regards to anything produced in the world today, is heresy of the highest degree. It is impossible to argue that anyone who produces a product does not have the right to expect compensation for the creation of whatever he or she has created. The internet is helping the world come closer to accepting the idea that perhaps products and information can accrue worth in ways other than monetary compensation, but a widespread approval of this type of information sharing is quite a ways away even if it might be inevitable. The problem we must first face is that most if not all of the ideas put forth in favor of copyright are done so by someone other than the original creator in protection of economic interests tied to the product. The music industry, and film industry, scholarly journals, and even code written for progrems support the industries around them, not just the people who create the products. This lawsuit takes this idea even further into absurdity by claiming that the compilation of another artists work licensed through another company has some sort of value under intellectual property and thus should be protected. This is like saying that I can take any public domain work, compile it in any way that I please, and sell it all while expecting my “creation” to be protected by law when I have effectively done nothing of importance whatsoever.
In the end however, it comes less down to the idea that there is no property value in compiling another artists work than it is a blatant example of the old stamping out the new in protection of profits. In a world where making a playlist is as east as logging onto iTunes a company that make money on the compilation of songs just shouldn’t exist anymore. There is no longer a market for it, and scrambling for protection under copyright only helps to further prevent the new age of information sharing and transfer to be ushered in. Milton argued in Areopagitica that the banning of books would not solve the spread of seditious and heretical ideas and that the orders set out by licensing would only serve to hurt the original creators rather than effectively achieve its goal, which is also true of copyright abuse. The Kantian nonage of the music industry and it’s feeble but harmful attempts to protect its own economic interests are as self-imposed as the “laziness and cowardice” that causes mankind to “gladly remain minors all their lives”, except in this case the powers at be know change is inevitable, they are simply want it to affect them as little as possible.
“Football Fixture Lists Protected by Database Copyright.” Bluefin Professions. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Sept. 2013. https://www.bluefinprofessions.co.uk/news/football-fixture-lists-protected-by-database-copyright
“Ministry of Sound Sues Spotify for Copyright Infringement.” The Guardian. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Sept. 2013. http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/sep/04/ministry-of-sound-sues-spotify
Kant, Immanuel. What Is Enlightenment?
Milton, John. Areopagitica