An indie musician claims that Apple Music has streamed his music and failed to pay mechanical royalties.
Yesterday, independent musician Bryan Eich filed a class action lawsuit against Apple Music. Eich claims that the company failed to obtain compulsory mechanical publishing licenses for his work. He owns the publishing rights to two albums, Devil in Disguise and Sleeping By A Wire, spanning 18 tracks.
In documents obtained by Digital Music News, Eich wrote that Apple Music (formerly Beats Music) failed to serve him a Notice of Intent to Obtain Compulsory License (NOI). That’s a pre-requisite for securing a mechanical license, though it’s a step that most streaming providers failed to take (including Spotify).
The Cupertino-based company then allegedly engaged in a “systematic process of infringement.” Eich brought the lawsuit on behalf of himself and “a putative class of independent artists.”
So, yet another mechanical lawsuit?
Eich has accused the streaming music platform of readily stealing royalties from multiple musicians from December 17th, 2014 to the present.
First, Eich claims that Apple Music distributed tracks and albums without first serving the proper NOIs. In the class action lawsuit, he stated that aggregators like TuneCore and CD Baby submitted most of their catalog of tracks and albums for Apple’s approval process. This includes the works of multiple indie musicians like himself.
“Plaintiff is informed and believes… that there are thousands of class members… those class members can be readily obtained from defendant’s database files and records.”
He claims that the “Putative Class can be readily located and notified of this action.”
Speaking about himself, he wasn’t made aware that Apple Music (known as Beats Music then) ultimately ingested his music for streaming. CD Baby had submitted Eich’s catalog in 2014. Apple then made his catalog available for streaming without his knowledge — though it’s not clear what Eich was really thought was going on (after all, distributors like CD Baby are contracted to put music into platforms like Apple Music).
Without providing specifics, Eich accused the Cupertino-based company of “engaging in an illegal scheme to reduce its royalty obligations” to himself and the Putative Class.
Second, the company is accused of deliberately deleting streaming information to avoid paying out royalties. Naming himself and the “Punitive Class,” Eich claims that Apple Music listed the streaming royalties as “$0.000000.”
“This obviously means Defendant has failed to include and/or change the revenue owed for streams.”
Under the first claim for relief, Eich accused Apple of willingly infringing on content owned by multiple musicians.
“Defendant has, without a ‘mechanical’ license from Plaintiff or Putative Class, reproduced and distributed… copyright compositions.”
“Defendant’s predatory conduct was clearly intentional… Defendants knew its actions constituted infringement each time it failed to serve an NOI or make a royalty payment.”
Without providing evidence to support the accusation, Eich added that Apple Music “altered documents to cover its illegal activity.”
Under the second claim for relief, Eich stated that Apple Music deliberately failed to pay any royalties.
“As described herein, Defendant systematically shorted the publishing royalties owed to Plaintiff and Putative Class.”
According to Eich, Apple Music altered the streaming reports “years after… to hide the infringement.”
To conceal the infringement, Apple Music allegedly failed to serve Eich a “Monthly Statement of Account” and an “Annual Statement of Account.” He added that the “laundry list of frauds, and misdeeds, perpetrated…shocks the conscious.”
Eich stated that he notified Apple Music twice about the failure to issue NOIs on August 11th, 2017. However, the company continued streaming his catalog. The company’s legal department also failed to respond to Eich’s claims.
Eich has asked the court for up to $150,000, but not less than $30,000, for each “willful infringement.”
You can read the entire lawsuit below. Note that Eich only submitted the certificate of registration for his albums. The lawsuit doesn’t contain any actual evidence of Apple Music or Beats Music streaming his album. In addition, you also won’t find Bryan Eich’s albums on the popular streaming music platform.
Featured image by North Charleston (CC by 2.0)