4 Sep 2013

Play off: Spotify and Ministry of Sound in legal battle

Ministry of Sound became famous for its full-on, no-holds-barred club nights. And it’s certainly pulled no punches in its scathing attack on Spotify.

Ministry is suing the Swedish music-streaming website for copyright infringement. It claims that Spotify users are ripping off the format of Ministry’s compilation albums and publishing them as playlists.

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Ministry’s albums are not available on Spotify, but users of the website can simply search the playlists and find one with an identical running order to the Ministry of Sound album.

“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. It’s not appropriate for someone to just cut and paste them,” Ministry of Sound’s chief executive Lohan Presencer told the Guardian.

A quick trawl of Spotify reveals dozens of playlists which duplicate the running order of Ministry’s compilations. Ministry claims Spotify has refused to remove the playlists, and launched proceedings on Monday claiming copyright infringement.

As well as suing the website, Presencer has rubbished Spotify’s business model, claiming not enough of its users are paying for the premium service. He also echoed the criticisms already voiced by others about the amounts Spotify pays to artists.

Unlike Ministry, many of the major record labels support Spotify, because they see it as a bulwark against the power of iTunes and the threat from piracy. Ministry (although a record label in its own right), stands removed from the music publishing giants and feels more able to hit out at Spotify.

It’s a row hotter than one of Ministry’s parties. But it’s only come about because of the company’s peculiar business model.

Compilation albums have been a huge hit for the music giant – it publishes the massively popular Hed Kandi mixes. It could be argued (perhaps by Spotify’s lawyers) that this skill of combining and compiling music is now available to the general public via playlists.

For decades DJs have traded on their ability to find, curate and mix music. Now that skill has effectively been democratised, so the argument goes, and therefore it’s no longer intellectual property.

At the time of writing Spotify had not commented because the issue is now subject to legal proceedings.

It promises to be an intriguing courtroom battle. Particular if Ministry call on some of their more famous artists to testify.

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