Paul C. VanSlyke, Senior Counsel at Hoover Slovacek LLP
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Spotify seeks better definition in copyright infringement case

One of the results of many appeals court rulings, whether here in Texas or elsewhere, is better definitions for words and terms that arise during or contribute to litigation. For instance, in copyright infringement, one of the questions Spotify wants to ask an appeals court is what "exclusive rights" means? The company wants an answer since at least one lawsuit the company faces involves what it considers a questionable standing to sue.

In that lawsuit, a company that purports to have exclusive rights to certain music is suing Spotify for copyright infringement. Apparently, the company, Bluewater Music Services, was given exclusive rights, but must still seek permission in order to make deals regarding mechanical licenses of songs if the royalty payment will not be the full statutory amount. In other words, if the company wants to enter into an agreement for use of a song on a streaming service such as Spotify for less than the statutory minimum, it needs permission from (at least) the songwriter first.

This prompted Spotify to want an appeals court to decide whether Bluewater and others like it actually have exclusive rights and the right to sue for copyright infringement. If an appeals court takes on this question, it could have a profound effect on an industry that is still attempting to find a smooth way to run. Copyright owners deserve their royalties, but who actually has full ownership makes a difference in who receives them and who can file lawsuits when they do not receive them.

If such an appeal is filed in this copyright infringement case, many people in the industry may keep a watchful eye on it. Depending on the outcome, it could change the way rights are transferred throughout the industry. In any case, if a Texas songwriter believes that someone else is using his or her copyrighted material without permission or payment, it is always a good idea to address the issue right away.

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