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Warner, Sony Win U.K. Court Battle With Streaming Radio Service TuneIn

A British High Court has ruled that digital radio service TuneIn has been operating illegally in the U.K. by streaming unlicensed music and content.


— A British High Court has ruled that digital radio service TuneIn has been operating illegally in the U.K. by streaming unlicensed music and content.

The court case was brought about by Warner Music and Sony Music in 2017 and specifically concerned TuneIn providing access to international radio stations that play music not licensed in the U.K.

Reacting to the verdict, a spokesperson for Sony Music Entertainment called the court ruling “a critical move in the right direction.”

“Today’s judgement confirms what we have long known to be true: that TuneIn is unlawfully redistributing and commercializing links to unlicensed music on a widespread scale,” said the spokesperson.

“While this decision marks an important victory against TuneIn’s blatant copyright infringement in the UK, the company continues to unlawfully profit from massive global commercialization of unlicensed copyrighted sound recordings by turning a blind eye to basic licensing requirements and hiding behind safe harbor claims to avoid paying music creators,” they went on to say.


“This deprives music creators of compensation for their work, and gives TuneIn an unfair competitive advantage in relation to licensed webcasters that honor their legal obligations and respect the need for artists to receive a fair return on the essential value they provide.”

Warner Music also welcomed the High Court’s decision with a spokesperson saying that they hoped it would force TuneIn to now “operate on a fully licensed basis and fairly pay rights holders for the music that it’s using to generate revenue.”

According to Bloomberg, the judge who delivered the ruling, Judge Colin Birss, questioned the record function that is part of TuneIn’s Pro app and effectively makes it a “download on demand service.”

TuneIn’s Pro app is reported to have had 150,000 users in the U.K. at the start of the year, although its record function was disabled in the country in 2017.


“The decision sends a clear message that services like TuneIn that generate revenues by providing online access to recorded music must negotiate licences and compensate right holders for the use of their music,” the IFPI said in a statement. “We continue to work to ensure that this is the case and that revenue is returned to those that invest in and create music.”

UPDATE: TuneIn CEO Juliette Morris has issued the following response to the ruling:

Today in the U.K., a judgment was announced in a lawsuit involving TuneIn and Sony Music and Warner Music regarding the availability of music radio stations to TuneIn users in the U.K. The U.K. Court found in favor of TuneIn on the most important claim, confirming that music radio stations licensed in the U.K. can be made available through the TuneIn service to TuneIn’s U.K. users.

While we continue to evaluate the ruling and consider all options, including appeal, we believe the judgment will have very little impact on the company’s revenue and ongoing growth strategies. We won on the most important element of the case, which was the right to provide U.K. users with access to U.K.-authorized radio stations. TuneIn is committed to complying with all applicable laws in the countries we serve and will continue to defend the right to operate a directory service providing listeners access to content freely available on the Internet.