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Music Publishers Sue Twitter for $250M - why it matters to Sports

You may have seen in the news that on June 14th 2023 the National Music Publishers Association of America sued Twitter for copyright infringement for $250M.

To date, the major music copyright infringement lawsuits against athletes, coaches, national and international governing bodies and their TV and online broadcasting partners have been by record labels related to the 'master rights' in the recording of the song.

So in itself this is a new departure, which highlights the growing focus on copyright infringement that music publishers now have.

See our music copyright explanation 'who owns copyright section' for a more detailed explanation of these two different 'sides' of music rights - music publishers own the rights to the songs themselves (the music and lyrics), whilst record labels own the rights to the master recording of a particular person of a song.

Publishing is more complex and difficult to license because, typically, several different music publishers own the rights to one song, as can be seen in the example below, and you need the agreement of every one of them before you can use the song.

Rights to Who Runs The World (Girls) by Beyoncé

Twitter has so far refused to obtain a license for music uploaded by its users, unlike other platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and Tik Tok.

How is this Relevant to Sports?

The language used in the lawsuit is very relevant to the governing bodies of sports that use music in their routines.

The NMPA alleges that Twitter "permits and encourages infringement" and that Twitter "routinely ignores known repeat infringers and known infringements".

This has moved beyond simple infringement claims, and NMPA is alleging that Twitter is causing damage by standing by and doing nothing as users on its platform infringe copyright.

A direct comparisons could be drawn with sport governing bodies, and the approach they take to enforcing copyright licensing within their sports.

Currently, many sports operate a self-certification model for music licensing, in full knowledge of the complexity of the music licensing process and lack of education provided to the athletes on the topic.

A useful analogy for music licensing is with safeguarding rules for coaches who work with young athletes.

No sports governance organization would allow coaches to self-certify, because of the disastrous consequences when it fails. They of course demand independent checks.

Lack of music licensing can have financially disastrous consequences for sports, yet athletes can be asked to self-certify about this complex subject with little or no checking on the part of the sports governance organisations. Sports could therefore be open to allegations of a similar nature to the ones NMPA is making against Twitter.

It's clear that athletes and sports governing organisations need a way to easily check and verify music licenses at international, national, regional and local levels.

License Verification System

Fortunately, our license verification system (LVS) does exactly that - it uses the type of automatic Content ID technology trusted by the music industry to police social media platforms to automatically recognise the songs in athletes' music and cross-check these against the music licenses they provide.

This allows sports governing organizations to manage their music licensing at scale, and enforce music guidelines and copyright law to protect themselves against all copyright infringement lawsuits.

LVS has other benefits too, providing accurate cue sheets that make reporting to PROs and licensing additional rights such as livestream and Video on Demand easy. (It can even run the music playback at your events for you).


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