Is Spotify Acting Spotty? Is Ministry of Sound’s Reasoning Sound?

There is a lawsuit being levied against website Spotify by website Ministry of Sound for using their playlists.  The major hole in their suit though, is that their playlists are themselves only compilations of other artists’ work.  “The case will hinge on whether compilation albums qualify for copyright protection due to the selection and arrangement involved in putting them together.”  Meanwhile, “the vast majority of tracks on those compilations have been licensed from other labels.”  So they don’t even have the rights to most of the songs they are putting on these playlists.  It sounds like they are trying to sue Spotify for paying money directly to the artists that own the tracks(which they have a very transparent record of doing, and MoS cites this as if it’s a bad thing) and don’t give a cut to MoS for “curating” the playlists of different songs, or putting them in a certain order.  Spotify, whose playlists are only a fraction of their function, has improved upon their model and actually licenses the songs they allow users to stream.  They want to copyright which order to play songs in, and, to quote Kant, “the public use of one’s reason must be free at all times.”  Their playlists, published on a public site, don’t feature original content, just random selections of other people’s songs, and they think they own the rights to the order of those songs? Another facet to consider, if Spotify’s business has revolutionized the model, how can MoS lay claim to it?  As Lessig states, “For most resources, most of the time, the market trumps the state.”  The market has spoken.  As far as being paid for their efforts in “curating” these songs, Milton might say, “For that part which preserves justly every mans Copy to himselfe, or provides for the poor, I touch not, only wish they be not made pretenses to abuse and persecute honest and painfull Men, who offend not in either of these particulars.”  In other words, don’t steal the work of others, but use your reason as to when the other person actually has any such claim over that “work.”  Spotify is a site that allows user to stream songs, create their own playlists, and access playlists created by others.  It has multiple features, and doesn’t hinge on using other’s content that it doesn’t own.  Can you copyright a playlist when you don’t own anything in it?  There’s little legal precedent regarding this kind of dispute, with the only recent example being “fixture list” for British soccer teams, used to bet on them, being taken from a database, determined to be protected by copyright, but later overturned.  Bluefin Professions clarifies: “For a database to qualify for copyright protection it must “by reason of the selection or arrangement of the contents of the database” constitute the author’s own intellectual creation. To date there has been little or no case law on the meaning of this requirement.”  I’m siding with Spotify.  MoS is just sore that they can’t ride the free cash train alone anymore.


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