Warner Chappel Music (WCM), the music publishing division of Warner Music Group (WMG) has filed an injunction to stop Spotify from using its catalog of songs in India. The injunction has been filed at the Bombay High Court. Warner Chappell Music is being represented by Priyanka Khimani, one of the leading music lawyers in the country. She will appear on behalf of Warner at the injunction hearing before the Bombay High Court tomorrow, 25 February.
By way of a statement issued in this regard, a Warner spokesperson stated,
“After months of negotiations, Spotify abruptly changed course and has falsely asserted a statutory license for our songwriters’ music publishing rights in India. We had no choice but to ask an Indian court for an injunction to prevent this. It’s our goal to hammer out a deal that works for everyone. We hope this is just a speed bump in the expansion of our long and successful global partnership.”
Spotify, on the other hand, has released a strong statement,
“Warner Music Group (WMG) instructed Warner/Chappell Music (WCM) to file for an injunction in an attempt to leverage WCM’s local Indian publishing rights, to extract concessions in WMG’s global renewal negotiations for musical recordings. WMG revoked a previously agreed upon publishing license for reasons wholly unrelated to Spotify’s launch in India. All other major labels and publishers have already agreed on economics and to license their music, and Spotify has also entered into a license with the local collecting society, while WCM remains the lone hold-out needed for a Spotify launch in India,”
With Spotify’s much-anticipated launch in India only a few days away, the Swedish streaming giant is said to have finalised deals with the other major labels but Warner has been unable to agree terms. WCM took out the injunction in India when Spotify claimed a statutory licence usually applied to TV and radio.
“WMG’s abusive behaviour would harm many non-Warner artists, labels and publishers, and prevent Spotify from competing in the market, leaving us no choice but to file for a statutory license. This statutory license, which allows for application to internet-based services, prevents WMG’s abusive practices, while ensuring all rights holders are compensated fairly. Under the statutory license, Spotify will pay WCM and their rights-holders rates that are in-line with the rates Spotify agreed to pay the leading Indian music entities, ensuring everyone involved will benefit from the new audiences and significant revenue the Indian market will bring. We will continue to assess our options at this stage,” added the spokesperson.
But major labels still represent the biggest pop acts in the world, and Spotify has yet to announce deals with any of the three major record labels. Under Spotify’s current plan, it still wouldn’t be able to offer music from Warner’s record label, which represents Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran and Cardi B. Publishing companies represent songwriters, while record labels work with the recording artist and producer.
Just before Spotify’s public-listing in March 2018, the company announced that it had opened an office in Mumbai and hired 300 people, but it faces an abrupt challenge in India. The official launch of Spotify in India was slated for January 2019 but due to hiccups along the way, the launch date has been moved to March 2019.
In addition to the severe competition from local streamers like JioSaavn and Gaana, Spotify could be staring down a potentially slow conversion from free to premium, and large sections of the country have broadband difficulties; although Internet access is inexpensive in India, infrastructure is still developing in many areas. However, Spotify faced similar challenges in Indonesia and Africa, and launched in those territories anyway.