(Photo: Samir Hussein/Getty Images)

Musicians die, but the music—and, for the purposes of this story, the more important question of who gets paid for it—inevitably lives on. Hence a new lawsuit being reported on by THR, which sees Wixen Music Publishing, the company responsible for the licensing of music by folks like Rivers Cuomo, Neil Young, Kim Gordon, Tom Morello, and the late Tom Petty, suing music streamer Spotify to the tune of a potential $1.6 billion in damages.

Wixen is claiming that Spotify has streamed tens of thousands of songs—including beloved tracks like “Free Fallin’” and The Doors’ “Light My Fire”—in its library without paying for the required licensing, and is thus seeking some pretty extreme financial damages to make up for the infractions. “Spotify brazenly disregards United States Copyright law and has committed willful, ongoing copyright infringement,” according to the complaint, which suggests that as many as 21 percent of the songs on the service might not be properly licensed. “Wixen notified Spotify that it had neither obtained a direct or compulsory mechanical license for the use of the Works. For these reasons and the foregoing, Wixen is entitled to the maximum statutory relief.” 

Advertisement

The endless who-owns-what arguments plaguing the music industry are a frequent source of frustration for both litigants and publishers, and one that Congress is currently trying to address. Amazingly, there’s a genuine, let’s-get-together-and-work-things-out bipartisan bill in the works to deal with this in Washington at the moment, one that’s meant to establish an overall database of licensing and music copyright, but it’s still a long way off from going to an actual vote. In the meantime, this particular fight has now crept up into the 10-digital range, money-wise, and only looks to be getting uglier from here. Spotify’s counter-arguments don’t even touch on the actual charges against them at this point; rather, the company is currently arguing that Wixman doesn’t even have the legal authority or permission to file the suit on its clients’ behalf in the first place.