On Wednesday, 17 music publishers sued Twitter for copyright infringement covering roughly 1,700 songs. Up to $250 million in damages are being sought. The suit says that by allowing users to post music to Twitter without permission, the company violated copyright law.
“Twitter stands alone as the largest social media platform that has completely refused to license the millions of songs on its service,” said David Israelite, the president of the National Music Publishers’ Association, in a statement.
In the filing, the music publishers say Twitter’s continued monetization of copyright-infringing accounts illustrates its “failure to meet its legal obligations to terminate or limit access to repeat infringers in a meaningful or consistent fashion.”
The publishers also say the situation surrounding infringing activity is getting worse, as evidenced by a rise in infringement notices and Twitter’s downsizing of its content review departments, including its legal teams. In the filing, they reference Elon Musk’s various Twitter polls as examples of the platform outsourcing its trust and safety decisions.
Elon Musk’s own tweets are cited in the suit. “Current copyright law in general goes absurdly far beyond protecting the original creator,” and “overzealous DMCA is a plague on humanity,” Musk tweeted back-to-back on May 12.
The suit cites harms to publishers’ licensing market, indicating Twitter is costing them revenue.
“Twitter is seizing for itself an artificial competitive advantage against companies that are not violating copyright law, undercutting existing markets, cheapening the value of music, and undermining Publishers’ well-established business models,” the filing reads. Publishers are seeking up to $150,000 for each instance of an infringed work. At nearly 1,700 songs, that equals approximately $250 million in statutory damages.
Twitter dodged a bullet earlier this year when it was deemed not liable for ISIS activity on the platform. The ruling reiterated the limits of what individuals and companies could go after the company for, freeing Twitter from fault for not successfully moderating every single instance of potentially harmful or dangerous content on the platform. It’s unclear whether a similar defense model will help Twitter navigate the new copyright infringement lawsuit.