Twitter Hit With $250M Lawsuit Over Multiple Copyright Violations 

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Twitter Copyright Lawsuit Em360

The National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) has accused Twitter of violating multiple copyright laws by allowing users to freely post music without permission. 

The publisher has filed a lawsuit claiming that Elon Musk’s platform “fuels its business with countless infringing copies of musical compositions, violating Publishers' and others' exclusive rights under copyright law."

The complaint was filed in federal court in Nashville on behalf of 17 music publishers, including the likes of Sony Music and Universal Music Publishing Group. 

It includes a list of 1,700 or so songs that the publishers say have been included in multiple copyright notices to Twitter without the company taking action, and asks the court to fine Twitter up to $150,000 for each violation, among other damages. 

The problem predates Elon Musk’s $44 billion takeover of Twitter last October. But Musk’s own Tweets, as well as the launch of his Twitter Blue Subscription which allows users to upload longer videos, were mentioned in the lawsuit too. 

“The Twitter platform, which Elon Musk purchased in 2022 for $44 billion, is rife with copyright infringement,” the group said in the suit, adding that the “unlawful conduct enriches Twitter at publishers’ and their songwriters’ expense,” the suit read. 

"Twitter permits and encourages infringement, including of Publishers’ musical compositions, so that it can continue to reap huge profits from the availability of unlicensed music without paying the necessary licensing fees for it.” 

Incriminating Tweets

Most of the alleged copyright infringement highlighted by the NMPA relates to music videos, videos of live music, performances, or videos using copyrighted music. 

The Publisher did not mention the wave of movies uploaded to Twitter over the past few months since Musk’s extension of Video duration for Blue subscribers. 

Illegal copies of films like The Super Mario Bros. Movie and Avatar: The Way of Water, for instance, remained on Twitter for hours before eventually being taken down. 

Instead, publishers pointed to Musk’s own allegedly incriminating Tweets as evidence that the former CEO was encouraging the piracy of their music. 

“Twitter’s most senior executive has previous executive has previously described the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) – a statute that, among other things, provides for notices and takedown of infringing copyrighted material – as 'a plague to humanity.’”

Musk Tweet Copyright
Tweet referenced in lawsuit where Musk calls DMCA "a plague on humanity."

“This statement and others like it exert pressure on Twitter employees, including those in its trust and safety team, on issues relating to copyright and infringement”

As well as Musk’s own Tweet the lawsuit also references Tweets between Musk and users that they claim show the billionaire encouraging users infringing copyright to subscribe to Twitter blue to avoid detection. 

One user said their account could be suspended after five copyright notices, to which Musk replied that they should “consider turning on subscriptions.” 

The suit says that this Tweet demonstrates Musk is encouraging them to pay Twitter to hide the infringing material so it couldn't be flagged. 

This, it claims, shows that Twitter is refusing to remove infringing content and has "continued to assist known repeat infringers with their infringement" without the risk of them losing their accounts.

‘An unfair advantage’

Music publishers have long complained that social media platforms earn much of their revenue using their content without permission. Music is the most popular genre of video on YouTube and has been fundamental to the rise of video-sharing apps like TikTok.

Unlike Twitter, however, other social platforms have settled agreements with publishers to use their music legally. 

Google, for instance, has paid $6 billion in the last 12 months to publish music on Youtube, while Meta pays hundreds of millions of dollars every year so that users can use music in their videos. 

“Providing free, unlicensed music gives the Twitter platform an unfair advantage over competing platforms, such as TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and others,” the lawsuit read. 

“The entities operating those competing platforms all pay fees to Publishers and other rights holders for the use of musical compositions on those platforms”

Musk has been preoccupied with other matters since assuming control of Twitter. He has axed half of Twitter’s staff, hired a CEO, and ditched Twitter’s legacy verification system. 

This lawsuit presents yet another hurdle for Musk and the newly appointed CEO Linda Yaccarino, who are desperate to reassure advertisers that have cut ties since the billionaire's controversial takeover.

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