Are you breaching copyright by making a playlist? If you’re copying an existing, copyrighted, compilation then you might be. Ministry of Sound, now more famous for their generic compilation albums of summer ‘anthems’ than the London club that started it all, are suing Spotify. Ministry of Sound claim that Spotify users are copying their compilations as playlists and naming them ‘Ministry of Sound’ and that Spotify should remove these as copyright infringing material. Spotify have, so far, refused to do so.

This raises some interesting questions. For a start, Ministry of Sound do not, generally, own the copyright to any of the songs on their compilations. Spotify do pay royalties to the label or rights-holder of songs on any unofficial playlists, so artists and labels are not losing out. The issue at stake is whether, in the construction of a tracklist in a compilation or playlist, someone is creating an autonomous work that is copyrightable. Lohan Presencer, Chief Executive of Ministry of Sound, believes the case is “clear cut”, explaining: “After 20 years and more than 50m album sales, the value and creativity in our compilations are self evident.”

We’re very interested to see how this turns out, and it is clear that the debate around online content and royalties, in its many forms, is far from over. As Crispin Hunt, CEO of the Featured Artists Coalition stated at the BPI’s AGM yesterday; “the past 10 years of online free exchange have created a paradise for consumers of music, but meant catastrophe for the people who make and sell it… but the model will change, it changes every year, new technologies will develop.” Here at Open Ear, we hope we’re at the forefront of that change.

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