The National Music Publishers Assn. is coming after two of the world’s most popular gaming platforms.
Representing a group of major and independent music publishers, the NMPA is suing Roblox for $200 million, alleging the gaming company engages in “rampant” copyright infringement. The organization is also ramping up its attack on Amazon AMZN -owned Twitch.
NMPA president and CEO David Israelite dropped the news at the organization’s annual meeting on June 9, stating “We value our partnership with legitimate gaming companies that respect music, and it is time to crack down on those that don’t.” He said the infringement committed by the company is particularly egregious because “they have enticed and manipulated mostly children into making tacit agreements and unknowingly stealing from songwriters.”
Noting it is “surprised and disappointed” with the NMPA’s action, Roblox responded today (June 10) with a statement, that reads in part: “We do not tolerate copyright infringement, which is why we use industry-leading, advanced filtering technology to detect and prohibit unauthorized recordings. We expeditiously respond to any valid Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) request by removing any infringing content and, in accordance with our stringent repeat infringer policy, taking action against anyone violating our rules.”
The NMPA says songs recorded by artists including Ariana Grande, deadmau5, Imagine Dragons, Ed Sheeran, and the Rolling Stones are being used in Roblox metaverse without the company paying due compensation to writers and copyright holders of those songs.
“You cannot build a company on the backs of music creators, refuse to pay them, profit off users naivete and money, and get away with it,” Israelite said.
Publishers ABKCO Music & Records, Big Machine Records, Concord Music Group/Pulse Music Group, deadmau5, Downtown Music Publishing, Hipgnosis, Kobalt Music Group, MPL Music Publishing, peermusic, Reservoir Media Management, Spirit Music Group, and Universal Music Publishing Group are plaintiffs in the suit.
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Warner Music Group, which acquired a minority stake in Roblox in January, and Sony Music Group, which staged in-platform events with Little Nas X and Zara Larsson, are notably absent from the group.
While no lawsuit is currently aimed at Twitch, Israelite said the company is “attempting to hide behind the DMCA safe harbor” and “should serve its users by fully licensing music which would allow the platform to flourish and copyright owners to be properly compensated.”
The news of the lawsuit came after the NMPA chief delivered an overview of the publishing industry, highlighting “significant” growth during 2020 despite the effects of the pandemic. The US music publishing industry registered a 9.6 percent revenue increase to $4.077 billion in 2020, up from $3.72 billion in 2019, he said, with performance collections up 7.92 percent to $2.1 billion from $1.945 billion in 2019.
The numbers “speaks to the strength of not only the diversification of our income streams,” Israelite said, “but also because of how songs perform even in a bad economy.”