Ministry of Sound in a tight Spot(ify)

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iol scitech nov 9 spotify REUTERS File photo: Daniel Ek, CEO & Co-Founder of Spotify.

London - Can music fans be sued for compiling a playlist of their favourite songs? In what promises to be a landmark legal case, the Ministry of Sound is suing Spotify for alleged copyright infringement, in a bid to prevent users of the streaming service replicating the playlists of its dance compilation albums.

The entertainment group formed out of the London nightclub has applied to the High Court for an injunction that would force Spotify to delete playlists compiled by users which “copy” the track listing and sequencing of the record label's hit compilations. Ministry of Sound is also seeking costs and damages.

Sales of compilations such as The Sound Of Dubstep Classics and Ibiza Annual 2013 are booming. But while individual tracks contained on the albums are licensed by their record companies to Spotify - the Swedish music platform which boasts a catalogue of 20 million songs - the branded Ministry compilations are not.

The London nightclub opened in 1991 and later expanded into recorded music. Its chief executive Lohan Presencer called on Spotify to take down users' playlists which directly mirror the track-list and running order of the Ministry albums and include the title 'Ministry of Sound'. He argued that “a lot of research goes into” curating the compilations. “What we do is a lot more than putting playlists together,” he said. “The value and creativity in our compilations are self-evident. It's not appropriate for someone to just cut and paste them.”

Spotify has rejected Ministry's demands, pursued in a series of legal letters. The music service, which has 24 million users, last month launched a “browse” feature to encourage users to discover and share their own playlists.

Spotify, which has sought to negotiate a licensing deal with Ministry for four years, declined to comment on the action. But a spokesman said the service's goal was to grow a service which users loved and “ultimately want to pay for”. He added: “Every single time a track is played on Spotify, rightsholders are paid - and every track played on Spotify is played under a full license from the owners of that track. We want to help artists connect with their fans, find new audiences, grow their fan base and make a living from the music we all love.”

The case rests on whether the order in which particular songs are sequenced - rather than the songs themselves - is protected by intellectual property law. If the Ministry is successful, the ruling could have wider implications. A club DJ, whose living is based on mixing together a unique sequence of tracks, could injunct a rival who copied the same setlist.

Meanwhile, a radio station, operating a commercially successful playlist, could sue a rival for playing the same songs in the same order. - The Independent

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