Attorneys representing David Lowery in his lawsuit against Spotify want to know what the music streaming service has been telling songwriters. In a motion filed this week in the Central District Court of California, Lowery and the other three plaintiffs have asked the judge for “corrective action to prevent misrepresentations to putative class members” in pitches to songwriters by Spotify and the National Music Publishers’ Association related to their settlement agreement.
The new filing comes down to the plaintiffs’ lack of access to settlement agreement between Spotify and the NMPA. Lowery’s attorneys state that their requests to see the reported agreement have been rebuffed, leading to concerns the eventual class members are being given false statements about their litigation rights. They believe the court has “both the authority and the duty to review and impose reasonable restrictions” on communications with potential class members to prevent Spotify from making misleading or inaccurate statements that would inform the songwriters about the nature of the litigation and their options for protecting their rights.
Lowery’s attorneys are asking for three things: for the judge to compel Spotify to turn over “all communications” between putative class members and Spotify; “corrective notices” related to any “misleading statements that have already occurred;” and a prohibition of “making any future misleading statements” to putative class members related to a settlement.
“We are hopeful that this motion will allow for greater transparency with respect to the comments that have been reported and allow the court to evaluate the proposed agreement between NMPA and Spotify so that the putative class can be in a position to determine the reasonable and fairness of the proposed agreement,” Mona Z Hanna, one of the two lead attorneys on the matter, says in a statement to Billboard.
“As we have said many times, we have always been committed to paying songwriters and publishers every penny,” says Jonathan Prince, Global Head of Communications and Public Policy at Spotify, in a statement. “That’s why we worked with the National Music Publishers Association to find a fair way to pay publishers and songwriters the money we set aside and we are continuing to collaborate with them as we build a comprehensive publishing administration system. And we’re looking forward to explaining to the courts why Mr. Lowery is wrong and why a class action lawsuit isn’t legally appropriate.”
Filed in December, Lowery’s lawsuit alleges Spotify has engaged in “rampant and indefensible” copyright infringement by streaming thousands of musical works without the required mechanical licenses and, as a result, without royalty payments to songwriters. It seeks damages of at $150 million.
As reported by Billboard — the same article used as the basis for the motion — the settlement agreement calls for Spotify to pay NMPA $30 million in return for waiving any claims related to the alleged infringement and royalties due. But the plaintiffs say they are “gravely concerned” that Spotify and the NMPA are not communicating to class members their rights not to waive their litigation rights. Spotify has blamed unpaid royalties on “often missing, wrong, or incomplete” data necessary to pay rights holders and claims it sets aside unpaid royalties until songwriters are identified.
The motion contains numerous examples of alleged misstatements. One is an NMPA statement that the settlement agreement is “a good deal for songwriters” while admitting only NMPA members can be party to the agreement. Lowery’s attorneys also believe Israelite was incorrect in saying the agreement “is the best of all options” when the amount of $30 million is below the amount of statutory damages being sought.