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Ministry of Sound Suing Spotify Over User Playlists 201

AmiMoJo writes "The Ministry of Sound, a UK dance music brand, is suing Spotify because it has not removed users' playlists that mirror their compilation albums. The case will hinge on whether compilation albums qualify for copyright protection due to the selection and arrangement involved in putting them together. Spotify has the rights to stream all the tracks on the playlists in question, but the issue here is whether the compilation structure — the order of the songs — can be copyrighted."
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Ministry of Sound Suing Spotify Over User Playlists

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  • by markkezner ( 1209776 ) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @09:38AM (#44755709)

    Why do these assholes care so much?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @09:45AM (#44755785)

      This is a company that makes money by taking other people's songs and releasing "compilation albums" of things that someone thought went well together.

      So, yes, they could actually go out and get real jobs.

      • by NJRoadfan ( 1254248 ) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @11:02AM (#44756597)
        Compilation albums of EDM can go two ways, mixed and unmixed tracks. If the tracks are continuously mixed by a DJ for MoS (very common), there could be a claim that they have some rights to that compilation. If its just a series of unmixed tracks (the original songs just thrown into a playlist) than there shouldn't be an issue.
        • by milkmage ( 795746 ) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @11:59AM (#44757187)


          but still, this is user generated content.

          Note to MoS.. those users are your FANS, you should encourage them to create playlists.

          • by jd2112 ( 1535857 ) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @12:45PM (#44757789)
            It worked for Metalica didn't it?
            Oh, wait. I haven't listened to a Metalica song (even on the radio) since those asshats started sueing their fans back in th Napster days.
            And I'm sure that I'm not the only one.
            • You're not the only one. I was just getting into music and metal when Napster came around, and I decided I would avoid listening to Metallica and not download their stuff since they didn't want me to.

              You should see the look on people's faces when we have conversations like this? "You like Slayer?" Yeah! "You like Pantera?" Yeah! "You like Megadeth?" Fuck yeah! "You like Metallica?" Eh, not really. That's when their jaws hit the floor.

              • by rat7307 ( 218353 )
                I may or may not have downloaded St. Anger when it came out just to have the pleasure of deleting it.
          • by Kjella ( 173770 )

            Bands have fans, a producer of compilation albums I don't really think so. They had a product that was relevant before the iPod revolution where everybody started buying single songs and making their own playlists. They're practically obsolete now, but is looking to cash in before the label goes out of business. Like SCO trying to trick $699 out of people before going out of business, what did they have to lose?

        • If the tracks are continuously mixed by a DJ for MoS (very common), there could be a claim that they have some rights to that compilation.

          The closest to that you can get with a playlist is auto fade of the songs in the same order which is not even close to the original mix if it's done by a DJ.

        • I disagree.

          The mixing itself can be copyrighted and is part of the copyright covering the music track HOWEVER the list of mixed tracks that are on the CD are still just a list of tracks on that CD and is no different from the list being on the Amazon page for the CD or the list of tracks as part of that CD on iTunes. Its a fact about the CD contents and not a creative work.

          If it was the case (and it's not in any way when listening to tracks on a CD) that the actual sound mixing was a functional output of t

        • As a DJ (who had its mixes featured on a national radio network), I'd like to point out that while beatmixing is an art, but so it is selection (which is obvious) and programming (knowing which song to put after the other, which seems to be lost on younger DJs). Then come charisma and reading the dancefloor but these are not issues in this case.

          I still think suing is a bit extreme. Yet Spotify should be removing playlists who have different originators than specified, simply because if mr X does a playlist

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No, they are artists.

      Use this instead:

      Just make sure NOT to pay money for anything they have done.

    • by dywolf ( 2673597 ) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @09:50AM (#44755843)

      yes. they need to be suiig google/youtube for not removing video playlists that match their albums.
      assuming their dumb enough to poke the sleeping bear.

    • Because if you're the dying industry responsible for making creative works as uncreative as possible, wouldn't you also be greedy, litigious, and irrational?

  • by xaxa ( 988988 ) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @09:41AM (#44755739)

    I went to the associated nightclub (Ministry of Sound in Elephant and Castle, London). I'm not sure the order of the tracks matters -- they all sound the same anyway!

    (And I like some genres of electronic music...)

    • by pegr ( 46683 ) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @09:57AM (#44755917) Homepage Journal

      Well, the recent Google/Oracle case pretty much decided that "Structure, sequence, and organization" is not a copyrightable element of Java. Why would it be copyrightable in this case?

      • Different countries, different jurisdictions, different rules, different case altogether.

        The Oracle case has no precedent allowable in this case.

        • by dkf ( 304284 )

          The Oracle case has no precedent allowable in this case.

          The court is not formally bound to follow the precedent set in the other case, but perhaps ought to be aware of the legal scholarship involved; that can carry over between jurisdictions, though only with persuasive power and only as one of the many aspects that ought to be considered.

    • by Inda ( 580031 ) <> on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @10:03AM (#44755985) Journal
      I went there before it was popular. Twice! And I regret it. Twice!

      It was all about owning the most expensive shirt when, at the time, everyone in the scene was wearing jeans, t-shirts and trainers.

      When MoS champion themselves as music heros, I wince.
      • by Dogtanian ( 588974 ) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @11:24AM (#44756831) Homepage

        I went [to the Ministry of Sound club] before it was popular. Twice! And I regret it. Twice! It was all about owning the most expensive shirt when, at the time, everyone in the scene was wearing jeans, t-shirts and trainers.

        Doesn't surprise me. The Ministry of Sound was a major part of the corporate appropriation and commercialisation of the UK dance music scene. It rose to prominence around the same time (early to mid 90s) that the Tories were trying to outlaw the "underground" egalitarian Ecstasy-related house music and rave culture that had taken off here in the late 1980s- via the likes of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (with its infamous "repetitive beats" definition)- and the "superclubs" like them were on the rise.

        Shouldn't be surprising that MoS was founded and owned by James Palumbo, a privileged, Eton-educated son of a Conservative peer, then.

        To be fair, I never liked most Ecstasy-related dance music full stop and wasn't into that culture, but I could respect some of that early stuff for its energy as a youth culture. MoS et al, OTOH, seems to be responsible for the endless, life-sapping, unoriginal recycled "heard it before 5, 10, 15 and 20 years ago and it was toss then" stagnated chart fodder we still have today.

    • Ministry of Sound is officially evil. The electronic music was supposed to be like open source, where Djs and producers do allow creative use of their music, because Djing and remixing is not possible without sharing.
    • Ministry of Sound [] not to be confused with Ministry [], of course.

    • You would think that if the order didn't matter then people wouldn't be creating and seeking out the cloned lists.

      People seem to be getting upset that you have a company suing over the ordering of some tracks, but the demand is there for it, which suggests the value is also there. People value the MOS arrangement, which is why they can be successful in selling compilations. Also, if people are publishing lists that use the MOS brand but aren't technically identical to the likened MOS product - e.g. due to v

  • by x6060 ( 672364 ) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @09:43AM (#44755771)
    I can now copywrite my grocery list? Sweet!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @09:47AM (#44755817)

      I guess I'll have to buy my milk after my eggs or I might get sued

    • Assuming there was an iota of human creativity involved, Americans who bother to put their grocery lists into a tangible form have been given copyrights on them since the late 1980s, if not longer.

      An interesting thing about copyrights: While it rarely has any legal meaning, two people who independently create the same work can hold copyright to the same item. It's rare that this has any legal impact for truly creative works because if the second person to create the work did so after the first work was pu

      • It also comes into play with "functional" items like relatively short blocks of computer code where there may be very little "flexibility" in how you code something. For example, if I come up with a 5-line sorting algorithm and describe it in text (not code) form, two readers may independently implement the algorithm in the same language, call the function "sort," and use "a, b, c, etc" or even "i, j, k, etc." as variable names, not do any comments, etc. and result in exactly the same implementation. Both have a copyright on the implementation, just as much as if they had named the variables after their children's pets and called the function "newsortireadinabooksomewhere()".

        Assuming, that is, that it is copyrightable at all. This is the filtration step of the abstraction-filtration-comparison test from the Altai case. Copyrights don't protection functionality; only creative aspects of software. Actual usefulness has to go under patents instead. Thus, the algorithm used isn't copyrightable. If there are a limited number of ways to implement that algorithm, particularly if external constraints like efficiency are involved, the implementation merges with the noncopyrightable func

      • Assuming there was an iota of human creativity involved, Americans who bother to put their grocery lists into a tangible form have been given copyrights on them since the late 1980s, if not longer.

        Really? I'll believe you, but I've never heard of this.

        Unless you do your grocery list like a poem or something, what about a grocery list is subject to copyright? It's a list of nouns, and possibly quantities -- there's not a whole lot of 'human creativity' involved in any grocery list I've ever seen.

        eggs milk

    • by PerlPunk ( 548551 ) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @10:08AM (#44756017) Homepage Journal

      I can now copywrite my grocery list? Sweet!

      You can copyedit it, too.

    • by JustOK ( 667959 ) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @10:27AM (#44756219) Journal

      But which is first? chicken or eggs?

    • The word you are looking for is copyright and it's not something you do, it's something you have.
  • In the USA, this would likely boil down to how much creativity went into the list and whether its use is causes any economic harm to the copyright owner.

    From a non-legal perspective, I think the music company is being foolish. They may win this battle in court but they are alienating their customers in the process. This is not the way to win friends and influence money-spending people.

  • Glorified mixtapes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheP4st ( 1164315 ) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @09:49AM (#44755829)

    "What we do is a lot more than putting playlists together: a lot of research goes into creating our compilation albums"

    Ouch! My sides are hurting from laughing after reading that.

    Seriously, how much research does selecting a a number of Top 100 chart songs that aren't too dissimilar really involve that make it so vastly different from the mixtapes many of us made back in the days?

    • Duh: an absurd retail markup.

    • by N1AK ( 864906 )
      Apparently enough that people are just copying MOS rather than making their own. I'm not sure I like the precedent it sets so I can't say I'm for it, however if I knew this would be restricted to stopping people lazily ripping off playlists instead of creating their own I wouldn't have any issue with it.
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <mojo@wo[ ] ['rld' in gap]> on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @10:28AM (#44756231) Homepage Journal

      To be fair people are naming their playlists after the albums they re-created, so it appears that there is some small value in the ordering otherwise why bother to mention where you copied it from?

      It's still stupid of course.

    • by Bob9113 ( 14996 ) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @10:34AM (#44756277) Homepage

      Seriously, how much research does selecting a number of Top 100 chart songs that aren't too dissimilar really involve that make it so vastly different from the mixtapes many of us made back in the days?

      I take it you're not a DJ. I don't know if Ministry of Sound UK is building solid sets or not (I actually have a few of their compilations, but haven't listened to them for structure), but the difference between a professional set and a mix tape is like the difference between a well designed database and the chaotic crap-fest data-dump that front-end programmers hack together when they're prototyping. A good set can take many hours to build and gets refined over months, or even years.

  • I'd ban the name Ministry of Sound in titles. You can't claim copyright on a playlist of songs that aren't yours and they have the legal rights to play. You can protect your name but that's it.
  • Theoretically, a playlist/mix should be eligible for protection under copyright law. It's just that a copyright only protects a work from being copied. It's different from patents. If two independent people come to the same idea, there is no cause of action between them under copyright law. Someone needs to be able to show by a preponderance of the evidence someone copied someone else. It would be hard to prove someone 'copied' a playlist. It works with easier with recordings or specific songs, but I'
    • by Half-pint HAL ( 718102 ) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @10:11AM (#44756055)

      UK copyright law has a specific category for "typographical arrangements" that is a right to a particular anthologisation. The classic example would be the church hymn book. I am allowed to compile as many different hymn books with different selections of hymns, and different selections of verses for each hymn, but I couldn't just copy someone's selection hymn for hymn, verse for verse. This recognises the time and effort expended on making the selection, and guarantees that the person who takes that time and effort isn't going to get undercut by some low-rent publishing outfit who immediately clones his product. (The fact that many of these hymnal publishers also engage in the morally dubious practice of "copyright pollution" by making minor alterations to the hymns themselves is by-the-bye.)

      One of the bestbits about this particular provision is that it implicitly recognises that a typographical arrangement is intrinsically less valuable than an original work -- they are protected for 25 years from the year of publication.

  • Easy solution (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Tell MoS to suck it. It's not Spotify's fault that its users are creating playlists that are "copies" of compilation albums and neither is it Spotify's job to prevent such a thing from happening. If they wanted to stay profitable, perhaps they should have taken the time to form a business around providing an actual product and/or service rather than stumbling around a 1 room "apartment" saying "Duuuuuude" oh, sorry, UK: "Maaaaate, that mixed tape is wizard. You should sell it and cut me in on the profits!"

  • It was decided a while back that while you can't copyright an individual record of a database that contains public information. You can copyright the database in its entirety.

    If a duplicated exactly every record of your million record database, its a good chance I just copied it instead of collected the data myself. If I copy your 10 record database exactly, or public information, can you really prove I copied your database?

  • Remove one song from each MoS album from the Spotify library, and go tell MoS to stick it where the sun don't shine.

    • by Bazman ( 4849 )

      Or just add one of those ridiculous copyright disclaimers you find all over YouTube whenever anyone uploads a whole album. People think using the phrase "For fair use", "Research only" or "I don't own this" is enough.

      • by Pope ( 17780 )

        Or the stupidest one, "No copyright infringement intended!" Yeah, sure, pal.

  • Does that mean they have to take down the listings of what on the CD from websites that sell the CD? There is where I got this list of tosh from.

    Disc 1
    Robin S - Show Me Love
    Gat Décor - Passion (Naked Mix)
    Sandy B - Make The World Go Round (Deep Dish Radio Edit)
    Ken Doh - Nakasaki (I Need A Lover Tonight)
    Rhythm On The Loose - Break of Dawn
    Alex Party - Alex Party (Saturday Night Party)

    and much more shite.
  • by TAZ6416 ( 584004 ) <mccormackj.rocketmail@com> on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @10:40AM (#44756339) Homepage []

    Turns out they didn't have standing to sue for the actual music as they were basically DJ mixtapes which they had licensed the music for, so they where suing over the copyright of the tracklistings..
  • by Slartibartfast ( 3395 ) <ken&jots,org> on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @10:40AM (#44756343) Homepage Journal

    At least stateside, "facts" aren't copyrightable. This applies (for example) to phone books -- but perhaps even more applicable is recipes. You can copyright the comments *about* a recipe, but the recipe, itself, is not copyrightable. It seems to me that it's a fairly small leap from an ordered list of ingredients to an ordered list of songs.

    • Re:No soup. (Score:4, Informative)

      by idontgno ( 624372 ) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @11:20AM (#44756783) Journal

      You're thinking Feist v. Rural []. That US Supreme Court judgement held that simply collecting and unoriginally arranging mere information wasn't sufficiently creative to constitute a copyrightable work.

      However, this is a UK suit. Feist isn't precedent. Also, it appears that the rest of the world (outside of the US) seems more friendly to the idea of copyrightable collections: the EU "database right" [] (and more specifically implemented in the UK by the The Copyright and Rights in Databases Regulations 1997 []); the explicit language in the Berne Convention supporing the copyrightability of collections (Article 2, section 5); and the corresponding wording in the GATT Uruguay Round Treaty Agreement, specifically in the TRIPS Agreement [].

      So, Feist appears to be an exception, not the rule.

  • The order of songs in a compilation is the only original thing they can copyright as the songs are largely all vapid and derivative anyways.

  • and it fell flat in court. the copyright order of songs in an album pertains to that album.

  • Who, exactly, is it who made the playlist?

    Say I've bought their CD, but I also use Spotify. If I make a playlist of songs based on an album I own, WTF does this have to do with Spotify and MoS?

    If Spotify themselves is making a playlist based on a compilation, well, then maybe I can see it because I think the specific compilation of tracks is copyright-able.

    Granted, I'm still old school and actually still buy a lot of CDs, which I then rip and play on whatever device I choose; so I'm not exactly using Spoti

  • You can't copyright a playlist, just like you can't copyright a recipe. Asshats.

  • by Tony Isaac ( 1301187 ) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @01:24PM (#44758235) Homepage

    Suing over something silly is an old trick to get publicity. There are sure to be people who have never heard of "The Ministry of Sound," who hear about the lawsuit, and decide to check out the music just to see what the hoopla is about. They might lose the lawsuit, but still win new customers.

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun