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Spotify looking to halt $150 million class-action lawsuit over royalties

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Late last year, Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker front man David Lowery filed a class-action lawsuit against Spotify for $150 million, claiming unpaid royalties. After more than a month of relative silence, Spotify has responded, calling the suit’s validity into question.

Lowery claimed that Spotify unlawfully distributed music from his former band Cracker without obtaining the proper licenses. Songs mentioned in the suit included Almond Grove, Get On Down the Road, King of Bakersfield, and Tonight I Cross the Border.

Spotify’s response to the suit, filed on February 12, claims that simply listing song names doesn’t provide sufficient evidence to link to the actual works. The filing mentions Adele’s recent hit, Hello, and how it could be confused with countless other songs by the same name.

“Would ‘California Girls’ mean the song by the Beach Boys or the Katy Perry hit?” the filing reads. “Would ‘One’ refer to the song by U2, the show tune from A Chorus Line, or one of many others, including hits by the Bee Gees and Metallica?”

The filing goes on to state that “copyright claims are poor candidates for class-action treatment.” In another separate motion, the company asks Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell to either dismiss the case altogether, or transfer it to a federal court in New York, claiming that as a Delaware corporation based in New York, it isn’t subject to California jurisdiction.

Mona Hanna, a representative from the law firm Michelman & Robinson, who is representing Lowery, said that this was expected on Spotify’s part, telling Pitchfork the move is “a standard defense maneuver to try to avoid dealing with the merits of the complaint and trying to see if they can get a dismissal on procedural grounds.”

No matter the outcome, this is an important case for Spotify, as this isn’t the only suit of this type the company is facing, or likely will face. In January the law firm Gradstein & Marzano filed a complaint on behalf of artist Melissa Ferrick, accusing Spotify of copyright infringement, and also seeking class-action status.

And if the company can indeed establish that this type of suit isn’t a candidate for a class action, it could set an important precedent for similar cases going forward.

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Kris Wouk
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