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Music publishers win Wolfgang’s Vault copyright action

By | Published on Wednesday 11 April 2018

National Music Publishers Association

US music publishers have welcomed a ruling in their ongoing legal battle with Wolfgang’s Vault in which the concert streaming service has been found liable for wilful copyright infringement.

Launched in 2003, Wolfgang’s Vault began life as an archive of concert recordings previously owned by promoter Bill Graham, though it later expanded its content sources. As that happened, and the channels through which the firm disseminated and monetised the live recordings expanded too, the company became somewhat controversial in music circles.

Various legal challenges were made, with the National Music Publishers Association pursuing a lawsuit on behalf of various publishers, including all the majors, back in 2015. It accused the firm of not having the right licences in place to cover the songs contained within its concert videos.

The judge hearing the case ruled in favour of the publishers last month via a decision made public this week. The judgement considers various arguments but forward by the defence as to why Wolfgang’s Vault was not, in fact, infringing anyone’s copyrights. But the judge rejected all of those arguments, which means the digital music set-up is liable for infringing a plethora of song rights. Damages are still to be set.

NMPA boss David Israelite yesterday declared that the ruling “is a dramatic vindication for our members Sony/ATV & EMI Music Publishing, Warner/Chappell, ABKCO, peermusic, Spirit Music, and Imagem Music, whose works have been wilfully infringed by Wolfgang’s Vault for years. NMPA is pleased to fully support its members in bringing their case and we look forward to the next phase where damages will be determined”.

He went on: “We wholeheartedly encourage fans being able to access the footage they want to watch, however the provider of that footage must obtain proper licenses and pay those who created and own it. We will continue to support this effort to ensure that copyright holders and songwriters’ rights are upheld”.