I’m David Lowery’s Attorney. And This Is What I Really Told Spotify…

What exactly did David Lowery’s attorney tell Spotify last year?  That is now a critical question in a $150 million lawsuit that could expose retaliatory behavior on the part of Spotify.

Over the weekend, DMN reported that Spotify had removed David Lowery’s catalog to comply with specific legal demands.  That suggested careful compliance, and nothing close to the retaliatory takedown accusations leveled against Spotify in recent months. But according to information shared by David Lowery’s attorney to Digital Music News on Monday, that assessment may have been erroneous.

In correspondence leaked last week to Digital Music News, Spotify told major labels Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group that Lowery demanded the takedown of his catalog.  “We have had a letter from David Lowery’s lawyers asking that we take down all of David Lowery’s catalogue,” an email from Spotify executive Steve Savoca to multiple Universal Music Group executives stated on December 22nd, 2015.

In a similar letter to Warner Music Group, Spotify claimed that Lowery failed to identify which licenses were being contested.  “Among other things, the Artist asserts that his exclusive rights to copyrights in musical works and/or sound recordings have been infringed by Spotify’s exploitation of the applicable musical work and/or copyright,” Spotify wrote.

Perhaps more critically (bold added by DMN): “The artist did not identify whether he is seeking a publishing or sound recording claim for each work, so we have listed all of the affected Warner tracks.”.

According to Lowery’s attorney, Mona Hanna of Michelman & Robinson LLP, those statements were at best deliberately misrepresented.  “Spotify’s statement that their take down of all of Camper Van Beethoven songs from their website is a result of a request from Lowery’s lawyers is disappointing,” Hanna emailed DMN.  “In fact, what the letter requested was ‘we hereby confirm Mr. Lowery’s demand that Spotify remove from its platform those songs by Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven for which Spotify has failed to secure the required mechanical licenses relating to those musical compositions…”

That doesn’t sound ambiguous, and according to Hanna, could demonstrate bullying behavior against problem artists.  “So, to me it appears that the take down of all the songs is either an admission by Spotify it did not have the proper license to play those songs, or I would have to conclude that it was, in fact, retaliatory,” Hanna noted.

“Either way Spotify is not acting in a corporately responsible manner.  It is not acting in compliance with the law and is taking an adverse position against the artists it relies upon for its profits.”


Correction: In our initial coverage on Monday, we incorrectly spelled Mona Hanna’s name.   

Image of a ‘unicorn fish’ by Jelle Bleyenbergh, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0).




12 Responses

  1. Jeff Robinson

    Indeed, for each artist on our label, they or their respective publishers have yet to receive a dime from streaming whereas they have received songwriting royalties through BMI or ASCAP. If one has received songwriting, then it follows that there is publishing money for mechanicals due and Spotify is NOT paying them.

  2. Anon

    Shady Aggregator Routenote has refused to pull some of my content from Spotify although it never had authorization to put it there in the first place but went ahead and did it anyway.

    • Zebulon

      These are all worrisome comments pointing to a “rigged” ecosystem. This is why I chose DigiRAMP.com for all my music commerce – you get your own Music Shop and control (admin) your own rights and licenses – the best I have found so far… and it’s free!!

      • Anon

        I will look at it.

        Yes, I hear bad things about the other aggregators as well, and I’ve tried 2 other ones, also with bad results.

  3. Anonymous

    This is what happens when you let a tech douche run the music business.

  4. Name2

    The doesn’t sound ambiguous, and according to Hannah, could demonstrate bullying behavior against problem artists.

    Or, you know, Spotify simply doesn’t want to find itself in front of one of those judges who thinks every stream is worth eleventy billion dollars.

    If your digital world is so fucked up that they douche who owns your recording doesn’t care to notify anybody about who the publisher is, that’s one honeypot anyone would be wise to avoid.

    Like so many before and after, Lowery is more trouble than he’s worth.

  5. Tom T

    Or perhaps another explanation is Spotify simply removed ALL his music because it could not tell which tracks (if any) it had the proper license for? We should not jump to conclusions.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      That’s what I initially thought. But the suspicious part are the representations that Spotify made to major partners, specifically Lowery’s labels Warner and UMG. Misrepresenting the demand could constitute violations of law, depending on how this is argued (let’s see). Believe me, in a case this big, everything matters.

      Indeed, Spotify is spending a lot of money and time trying to kill this case on a technicality. So you can say this is nit-picking, I’d say this is how lawyers wage war.

      • What Did You Expect?

        What, specifically, is suspicious about the representations that Spotify made to Warner and UMG?

        What, specifically, are you suggesting Spotify misrepresented about Lowery’s demand?

        What, specifically, about the completely undefined “misrepresentation” could constitute violations of law?

        What specific laws would it violate?

        Is it any surprise, at all, that Spotify is spending money and time fighting the case? How else do you fight an vague initial application for class certification, OTHER than on “a technicality”? That’s ALL there is, at this point.

        It is definitely how lawyers wage war.

        Please stop engaging in vague, amateur speculation about law and a case that you clearly know absolutely nothing about.

  6. Freddie

    If someone threatened to sue me, I’d probably try to cut off ties with them as well. Lowery’s plaintiff lawyer (who is the only person in this entire situation with anything to gain except for Lowery) seems to be trying really hard to create an issue where one doesn’t exist. But wait, that’s her job . . .

  7. What Did You Expect?


    It’s not “retaliatory,” at all. It’s simply being cautious.

    Ms. Hannah can say anything she wants to try and editorialize the issue and their claim but fortunately, the case won’t be decided in the court of public opinion.

    She admits that they simply demanded that Spotify remove those songs “for which Spotify has failed to secure the required mechanical licenses.” They didn’t provide a list of the songs they allege are not properly licensed?

    Why not?

    This is the same problem with their class action class description. The class is allegedly all owners of copyrights that “haven’t been licensed.” An improperly self-defining class. You can’t commence a class action by saying the class will be anyone that will be proven to have had a claim by the results of the case.

    It’s really simple: Spotify has 35,000,000+ tracks up/they are trying to license. David Lowery owns the rights to a few dozen songs, at most, and he claims that some of those have not been properly licensed. He can and should name those specific songs, and allege his ownership and the absence of a license from him, as the owner.

    Making vague threats that some songs are not licensed and then asking that “all unlicensed songs” should be taken down leaves Spotify with no reasonable choice but to remove everything that Lowery even MIGHT have an ownership interest in.

  8. Paul Resnikoff

    Quick correction: I’d spelled Lowery’s attorney’s name incorrectly. It’s Mona Hanna. Sorry about that.