Songwriters – Grab a Fork and Dig into the Spotify Settlement Pie

Songwriters – Grab a Fork and Dig into the Spotify Settlement Pie

In May 2017, individual lawsuits filed against Spotify by David Lowery and Melissa Ferrick (and later joined) reached a settlement to the tune of $43.5 million. The suit arose after Spotify allegedly failed to compensate songwriters with publishing income deriving form mechanical licenses. From the start, Spotify maintained its denial of any wrongdoing in that respect, but to no avail. Spotify’s valiant attempts to derail the litigation were unsuccessful, ultimately leading Spotify to settle.

Songwriters, do you qualify for compensation under the Settlement Agreement? Here is what you need to know: First, do you qualify as a Class Member? You do if you own a musical composition copyright (actually registered with the U.S. Copyright Office before June 29, 2017), for which Spotify made available for downloading and/or interactive streaming, without a license, and did so between December 28, 2012 and June 29, 2017. Parties and/or entities exempt from the Settlement Agreement include Spotify and its affiliates/employees, government entities at all levels, members of the NMPA and other parties to a “Participating Publishing Pending and Unmatched Usage Agreement” between Spotify and NMPA.

Second, if you do qualify, you must submit your claim form to Garden City Group, LLC, who is tackling administration of the settlement funds. Forms are available at: http://www.SpotifyPublishingSettlement.com“. The form is self-explanatory: name, contact information and the musical compositions you claim are subject to the Settlement Agreement (pursuant to the above conditions). In addition, you will need to identify the “Track Identifier” for each recording on Spotify featuring that composition and can utilize Spotify’s Track Database (“http://www.SpotifyPublishingSettlement.com“) to help you determine that information.

Hearing on final approval of the Settlement Agreement is scheduled for December 2017. If approved, however, Spotify will also have the opportunity to appeal and unfortunately, settlement funds may not be paid to Class Members until any such appeal(s) are resolved. Presuming the Settlement Agreement is approved and either no appeal is taken or an appeal is decided in favor of the Class Members, those Class Members will essentially take a percentage of the funds based on the number of streams of their compositions as well as payment of mechanical royalties for future compositions. In other words, payment could be substantial, depending on the number of plays in question for a respective Class Member. If you believe you may qualify as a Class Member under the Settlement Agreement, it is certainly in your best interest to investigate and take the appropriate steps to ensure your proper compensation.

(See generally, https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2017/08/08/spotify-songwriter-settlement/”, August 9, 2017)

By: Michelle M. Wahl, Esq.





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Michelle is a Partner at Swanson, Martin & Bell, LLP and is licensed in Illinois and Indiana state and federal courts. With a Masters of Law in Intellectual Property, Michelle is the Vice Chair of the firm’s Entertainment and Media Practice Group and a member of the firm’s Intellectual Property Litigation and Transactional Services Practice Group. Her copyright and trademark practice focuses on intellectual property prosecution and related transactions, including performing trademark availability searches and providing advisory opinions, as well as preparing and filing trademark applications with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and copyright registrations with the United States Copyright Office. Michelle also assists with the oversight of the firm’s extensive trademark docket and conducts required monitoring and maintenance of clients’ trademark portfolios, as well as provides clients with corporate counseling and innovative corporate solutions to address their respective needs.

Michelle further provides comprehensive representation in the drafting, negotiating and executing of various entertainment-related contracts and licenses, including but not limited to band member agreements, artist management agreements, session player agreements, performance agreements, sound engineer agreements, recording and personal services agreements, publishing agreements and licensing agreements. As a former artist manager, she has implemented many facets of national and regional tours, assembled benefit and charity concerts, communicated with various industry personnel, facilitated radio and internet publicity campaigns, arranged radio, print and internet interviews, and assisted in the development of press kits and websites promoting local talent. Michelle has also guest lectured on entertainment and intellectual property-related topics at The John Marshall Law School, DePaul University College of Law, Chicago-Kent College of Law and Azusa Pacific University (CA), as well as served as a panelist on various other entertainment-related continuing legal education courses. Michelle is an author and editor of the Litigation and Industry Updates Column of the ABA’s Entertainment & Sports Lawyers Journal and has also had numerous articles published by the Chicago Music Guide.

In addition, Michelle serves as Chair of Swanson Martin & Bell, LLP’s Community Service/Pro Bono Committee and proudly volunteers her time as President of the Associate Board and as a pro bono attorney to Lawyers for the Creative Arts, a non-profit organization that provides free legal services to eligible clients in all areas of the arts. She also currently serves as Events Chair for the Chicago Chapter of Women in Music, a non-for-profit organization dedicated to fostering equality in the music industry through the support and advancement of women. She recently served as Chair of the Young Lawyers Division for the Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel, where she was recognized as the Rising Star recipient and received a Meritorious Service Award and President’s Commendation.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in these articles constitutes general information and guidance and shall not be construed as legal advice applicable to or provided for any particular person or entity, and shall not be deemed to create an attorney-client relationship between Ms. Wahl and anyone who elects to read and/or rely, to any extent, on the material provided herein. In that respect, Ms. Wahl hereby expressly and specifically disclaims any such legal relationship, but encourages any person or entity seeking a legal advocate pertaining to the issues addressed and discussed herein to contact her directly for further information. Ms. Wahl may be reached at Swanson, Martin & Bell, LLP (330 N. Wabash, Suite 3300, Chicago, IL 60611 or via telephone at her direct line: (312) 222-8585 or e-mail at: mwahl@smbtrials.com.

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