Members of America’s National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) sued Twitter for copyright infringement in federal court in Nashville, Tennessee, on June 14.
The NMPA, a trade association charged with protecting and advancing the interests of songwriters and publishers, claims that “Twitter has repeatedly failed to take the most basic step of expeditiously removing, or disabling access to, the infringing material identified by the infringement notices,” and that “Twitter profits handsomely from its infringement of Publishers’ repertoires of musical compositions.”
The NMPA included in the suit an exhibit listing nearly 1,700 infringed works—including songs by Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, the Notorious B.I.G., and Destiny’s Child—seeking close to $250 million in damages.
NMPA members in the suit include some of the world’s largest music publishers, including Universal Music Publishing Group, Sony Music Publishing, Warner Chappell, BMG Rights Management, Kobalt, and Hipgnosis.
The suit does not include owners of mechanical licenses, or rights related to the specific recordings of the copyrighted songs uploaded to Twitter.
Other social media platforms, including YouTube, Facebook, Snap, and TikTok, have signed agreements with rights holders to license music on their platforms to the tune of billions of dollars per year.
In 2021 Twitter entered negotiations with the three major label groups —Universal, Sony, and Warner—but talks stalled after Elon Musk’s $44 billion leveraged buyout of the social network, which was followed by several extreme cost-cutting measures.
A request for comment to Twitter’s communications department returned an auto-reply with a single poop emoji.
The NMPA’s lawsuit argues that Twitter is, by design, a destination for multimedia content, and that their copyrighted audio and video recordings both attract and retain users and drive engagement, furthering Twitter’s advertising business and other revenue streams.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) generally protects social media platforms from liability for copyrighted content uploaded by its users, but it also provides guidelines for the removal of said content.
The NMPA argues that Twitter either delayed or ignored its requests to have the copyrighted material removed from the platform.
The NMPA president and CEO, David Israelite, said at the organization’s annual meeting that total U.S. publishing revenue rose 19 percent to $5.6 billion in 2022 from $4.7 billion in 2021.
That increase does not include additional revenue expected to be owed to publishers after the Copyright Royalty Board upheld a rate increase for streaming services, to be applied retroactively to the 2018-2022 period.