Music publishers face the recalcitrant Elon Musk in a copyright lawsuit against Twitter

Credit: Akshar Dave

A group of music publishers are suing Elon Musk’s Twitter for $250 million in copyright infringement. But the group faces a recalcitrant Musk who doesn’t pay rent– Why should he pay royalties?

Twitter has long benefited from the presence of music on the platform, but unlike major social media sites, it doesn’t have a licensing agreement. Now music publishers are fighting back. The copyright infringement suit was filed by the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) on behalf of 17 music publishers, alleging copyright infringement on more than 1,700 songs in the publishers’ respective catalogues.

“Twitter stands alone as the largest social media platform that has totally refused to license the millions of songs on its service,” NMPA executive director David Israelite said of the lawsuit. Twitter hasn’t directly commented on the news of the $250 million lawsuit, but Musk has commented in the past on how he would run Twitter going forward.

In a tweet dated May 20, 2022, Musk made the statement writes“My commitment: We will never seek victory in a fair trial against ourselves, even though we’re likely to win. We will never give up/settle an unjust case against us, even though we’re likely to lose.”

Those words suggest Musk is poised for a long, drawn-out legal battle against music publishers. Among the many layoffs he made during his early tenure at Twitter was the firing of most of the people responsible for handling early licensing talks with publishers. The NMPA also asserts that “music-enhanced videos are of particular and paramount importance” as Twitter has expanded its scope from a text-based website to include video and audio.

The NMPA successfully sued Peloton for copyright infringement in 2020, with the case quickly settled – with a new license agreement. Twitter’s hand-picked CEO, Linda Yaccarino, will have rough days at the helm of the social media giant as he tackles challenges like this NMPA lawsuit. Since then, Twitter’s advertising business has been in free fall Big advertisers have left Twitter is owned by Musk.