Pandora Slapped With Copyright Lawsuit for Displaying Tom Petty, The Doors & More Song Lyrics

Mark SeligerĀ 
Tom Petty

Music publisher Wixen says Pandora is "willful and deliberate" in using unlicensed song lyrics on the platform.

Pandora displays lyrics for popular songs on mobile and desktop -- but does it have the rights to?

At least for its repertoire, music publishing company Wixen thinks not. The publisher is suing Pandora for copyright infringement, arguing that the radio giant knowingly displayed lyrics from Wixen artists including Tom Petty, Rage Against the Machine and Weezer "without any valid license or authorization."

"Plaintiff brings this action against Pandora to obtain redress for the massive and continuing unauthorized commercial exploitation by Pandora of the lyrics to the musical compositions listed," reads the lawsuit filed Monday. "Plaintiff fully expects that there are numerous additional musical compositions whose lyrics are being or have been exploited by Pandora without authorization from Plaintiff."

Similar to other digital music services, Pandora partners with licensing companies like LyricFind to source its lyrics, along with the rights to display them. But Wixen argues that those licensing agreements, including the ones attained by LyricFind, don't cover work by its clients. The company claims that while it notified Pandora about the issue in early 2018, the company took until last month to agree to remove some lyrics -- continuing to profit from the alleged "unauthorized display" through subscription fees and advertising revenue in the meantime.

"Pandora's infringement is therefore willful and deliberate," the lawsuit continues. "Its conduct has caused and continues to cause substantial, manifest, and irreparable harm to Plaintiff, while enriching Pandora at Plaintiff’s expense and to the detriment of the copyrighted musical compositions controlled by Plaintiff."

Formed in 1978, Wixen says it now administers more than 75,000 songs for more than 2,000 clients. The company is seeking an injunction and damages of up to $150,000 for each of roughly 100 songs noted in the complaint, including The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm” and Petty’s “It’s Good to be King." Representatives for Pandora and LyricFind did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

The filing marks the second major lawsuit that Wixen has brought against a music streaming company. Last December, it settled a $1.6 billion lawsuit against Spotify over mechanical licenses. That's a separate issue from lyrics licensing, which stirred up another skirmish earlier this week when lyrics website Genius Media accused Google of copying lyrics from its site to display above lyrics search results. (Google has denied those claims.) In contrast with Wixen's complaint, neither Google nor Genius own the lyrics at issue.