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No, Spotify and Amazon aren’t suing songwriters

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Musicians, producers and songwriters are rallying against Spotify and Amazon’s plans to “sue songwriters” over increased streaming royalties. But the outrage stems from some misinformation: Spotify and Amazon aren’t technically suing songwriters — they’re trying to appeal the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) decision last year to increase payout rates to songwriters by 44% over the next five years, as reported by Variety.

The CRB ruling made in January of last year, which sided with the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) and the Nashville Songwriters’ Association International, was just published this February, and it opened up an opportunity for companies to appeal the decision for a 30-day window. Now, Spotify, Google, Pandora and Amazon have all filed to appeal.

While the four tech giants plan to fight the ruling, Apple Music is the only streaming service that won’t file an appeal. In a statement issued about the appeal, NMPA President David Israelite praised Apple Music for “continuing to be a friend to songwriters”, but blasted Spotify and Amazon for their decision to “sue songwriters in a shameful attempt to cut their payments by nearly one-third.” That statement appears to be where the misinformation is coming from.

It’s not known whether the NMPA’s statement was released before Israelite knew Google and Pandora were planning to file an appeal as well, since he doesn’t mention those two companies. But Israelite’s quote gained traction on music publications, sparking outrage among artists against the two companies on Twitter.

So while an appeal may be upsetting news, musicians and songwriters shouldn’t be too worried about the outcome. Entertainment lawyer Jeff Becker of Swanson, Martin & Bell tells The Verge it was anticipated for some time that these platforms would take the opportunity to preserve their bottom line via an appeal. He believes the court will likely side with the increased royalty rate.