Spotify under legal fire again

Following a month where a number of high-profile musicians complained via social media about the comparatively low pay rates that the company offers, Spotify now find themselves on the end of a lawsuit from one of the bigger compilation-based labels in the world.

Ministry Of Sound, who have been releasing dance-music compilation albums for more than a decade, are suing the company for copyright infringement after their requests to have playlists that copied the track-listing of their albums removed. The label states that there are a large number of user-generated playlists on the streaming service that are track-for-track duplications of their albums, and some go so far as having the playlist in question reference the actual album.

Speaking about the lawsuit, Ministry Of Sound executive Lohan Presencer stated that, “What we do is a lot more than putting playlists together: a lot of research goes into creating our compilation albums, and the intellectual property involved in that.” He went on to say that, “If we don’t step up and take some action against a service and users that are dismissing our curation skills as just a list, that opens up the floodgates to anybody who wants to copy what a curator is doing.”

While one can certainly understand Presencer’s frustration, it raises the question of whether or not a compilation album is a unique form of “intellectual property,” as it can be argued that anyone could create that grouping of songs. The releases put out by Ministry Of Sound contain a mix of songs from all around the globe, all of which are released through traditional channels. The label simply puts them in the order they feel works best, and that process has sold more than 50 million units over the past two decades. However, the label does not create any of the music in question, and therefore their claim of “intellectual property” is a bit difficult to support.

Other critics of the lawsuit have brought into question the entire idea of “curation skills,” as in the age of easily access to music from across the globe, anyone with time on their hands can do just that. These critics also cite the fact that other companies who release such music have partnered with Spotify to make a custom app for the service, but due to the fact that Ministry Of Sound does not own the rights to a majority of the songs on their compilation, such a move would not benefit them financially.

Regardless of which side of the case you look at, the situation marks the latest turn as the old model of music sales fade and steaming services cement their place as a major player in music distribution. While Ministry Of Sound has had massive success over the decades with their compilation albums, clearly they need to adjust the way they do their business, or it’s likely their business will become a memory before too long.


Joel Freimark hosts a daily music-related webseries HERE and you can follow his daily music musings and suggestions HERE as well.

Image: Ministry Of Sound

Image: Spotify