Music publishers sued Twitter for more than $250 million in damages on Wednesday, alleging that the social media platform “breeds massive copyright infringement that harms music creators.”
The lawsuit alleges that for years, Twitter has allowed users of its platform to share copyrighted songs without a license. It also claims Twitter’s misconduct has only gotten worse since Elon Musk bought the company for $44 billion last fall and slashed staff.
Twitter’s alleged permissiveness around users sharing copyrighted songs, combined with the social network’s promotion of tweets with copyrighted music, has unlawfully helped fuel the company’s growth, according to the National Music Publishers’ Association, whose members include Universal, Sony and Warner Music Group.
The complaint cites more than 1,700 songs whose copyright Twitter has allegedly infringed, including hits such as Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” Outkast’s “Hey Ya!” and Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk,” featuring Bruno Mars.
“The availability of videos with music, including copies of Publishers’ musical compositions, furthers Twitter’s financial interests both because it drives user engagement, and thus advertising revenue, and because Twitter does not pay fees to license musical compositions,” the complaint said. “Providing free, unlicensed music gives the Twitter platform an unfair advantage over competing platforms, such as TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and others.”
Twitter’s competitors, the music publishers said, all pay licensing fees to rightsholders for the ability to use the copyrighted music.
Twitter didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The lawsuit cites the sweeping layoffs under Musk’s ownership that have eliminated entire teams at Twitter. It also highlights Musk’s own views on copyright, including a screenshot of two of his tweets from prior to the acquisition.
“Current copyright law in general goes absurdly far beyond protecting the original creator,” Musk tweeted at the time. In a followup tweet referring to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, he wrote: “Overzealous DMCA is a plague on humanity.”
Those statements, the complaint alleges, “exert pressure on Twitter employees, including those in its trust and safety team, on issues relating to copyright and infringement.”
The music industry’s lawsuit adds to the already expansive legal risks facing Twitter, which is currently under investigation by the US government for possible violations of its privacy and security agreements with the Federal Trade Commission.
The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.