struck a wrong chord

Twitter is facing a copyright infringement bill worth $250 million

Publishers behind artists like Taylor Swift and Beyoncé are suing the Elon Musk-owned company

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Photo: Mario Anzuoni (Reuters)

Twitter is a cesspool of copyright infringements, according to music publishers who are suing the Elon Musk-owned social media platform.

In a lawsuit filed in Tennessee yesterday (June 14), the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) sued Twitter on behalf of several publishers representing some of the industry’s biggest artists for violating copyright law.


For existing copyright infringement cases, the trade group is seeking upwards of $250 million in damages from Twitter. The publishers are seeking to go to trial to prove their damages and how Twitter profited from copyright violation.

Why music publishers are suing Twitter

Twitter is accused of monetizing tweets with music that hasn’t been paid for or licensed appropriately. Even after receiving copyright notices, Twitter allegedly takes weeks or months to take them down, increasing its monetization prospects.


The site doesn’t take strict action against infringers, according to the complaint. At most, it temporarily suspends accounts, but there’s no real risk of termination, the lawsuit says.

Quotable: Other social media companies and individuals pay for music rights

“Social media companies behind such well-known platforms as TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat have entered into agreements with publishers and other rights holders that compensate creators of musical compositions for use of their works on those platforms. There are also dynamic existing markets for individuals to receive streams and downloads of music, including recordings embodying Publishers’ musical ‘compositions, outside the context of social media. Twitter’s conduct complained of herein harms these legitimate markets, thereby depriving publishers and their songwriters of hard-earned, deserved income from their creative endeavors.” —NMPA’s June 14 lawsuit against Twitter

The business of music on Twitter, by the digits

17: Music publishers represented in the lawsuit, including Anthem Entertainment, Sony Music Publishing, and Universal Music Publishing Group, which represent artists like Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, The Weeknd, Ed Sheeran, Lady Gaga, Jay-Z, Rihanna, Travis Scott, and many more.


1,700: Songs included in multiple copyright notices sent to Twitter

$150,000: Damages NMPA is seeking per work infringed since December 2021, bringing the total up to more than $255 million so far


$100 million: How much deals for music rights can cost socially media companies annually

300,000: Number of infringing tweets publishers aggregately notified Twitter of

30 million: Tweets published about music around the world daily, according to an October 2022 blogpost. That’s 20,000 per minute.


Double: How much tweet volume Taylor Swift’s Midnight album release generated versus the National Football League (NFL) on Oct. 20, 2022

240: Infringing tweets incorporating Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World that Twitter failed to take down within 14 days after the NMPA Notice was sent, according to the lawsuit. Half of them were up a month later, and two dozen were still available two months later.


450: How many days its been since NMPA sent the first of 95 separate infringing tweet notifications featuring Heat Waves by Glass Animals—all of which Twitter has failed to take down, according to the lawsuit

221,000: Views on a tweet including a two-minute snippet of Rihanna’s Umbrella music video, used without the permission of the song’s publishers, according to the lawsuit.


Person of interest: Elon Musk

The issue predates Musk’s $44 billion purchase of Twitter last October. However, he’s apparently been of little help since he took over.


Twitter was in talks for licensing rights with the three major music labels— Universal, Sony and Warner—since 2021, but the discussions fell apart after the Tesla and SpaceX chief Elon Musk bought the platform.

The lawsuit alleges Musk has set the wrong tone at the company. Going after the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Musk has previously tweeted that “Overzealous DMCA is a plague on humanity,” among other harsh criticism of copyright law.


“This statement and others like it exert pressure on Twitter employees, including those in is trust ‘and safety team, on issues relating to copyright and infringement,” the lawsuit says.

Musk is also the one who launched the option of longer video uploads as part of the controversial Twitter Blue subscription. If past is precedent, many of these videos won’t comply with copyright rules. After all whole movies like The Super Mario Bros. Movie and Avatar: The Way of Water were illegally posted on the platform for hours before being taken down.


Twitter does have a new CEO, Linda Yaccarino, who might be able to etch a better deal with publishers. She has yet to address the lawsuit.

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