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NMPA hits back at Roblox response to copyright lawsuit

By | Published on Monday 14 June 2021

National Music Publishers Association

The US music publishers fundamentally misunderstand how online gaming platform Roblox operates. Or at least so reckons online gaming platform Roblox, which also insists it fulfils all its commitments under US copyright law in terms of dealing with copyright complaints, while adding that opportunities abound within its super duper “metaverse”, if only the fucking music publishers would get themselves into the 21st century and stop filing fucking lawsuits.

I mean I’m paraphrasing slightly. But only slightly. The publishers, meanwhile, reckon fucking Roblox should just fucking get itself some fucking licences. Yeah, I’m paraphrasing still. But only slightly.

The US National Music Publishers Association announced during its General Meeting last week that a consortium of its members had filed a $200 million lawsuit against Roblox. The gaming platform, NMPA boss David Israelite declared, has “made hundreds of millions of dollars by requiring users to pay every time they upload music onto the platform – taking advantage of young people’s lack of understanding about copyright – and then they take virtually no action to prevent repeat infringement or alert users to the risks they are taking”.

The day after the NMPA meeting, Roblox issued a statement saying it was “surprised and disappointed” about the litigation which “represents a fundamental misunderstanding of how the Roblox platform operates”. The gaming platform added that it would defend itself “vigorously as we work to achieve a fair resolution”.

When it comes to managing and removing copyright protected material uploaded to its platform without licence, Roblox insisted it complies with all its obligations under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act. “As a platform powered by a community of creators, we are passionate about protecting intellectual property rights – from independent artists and songwriters, to music labels and publishers – and require all Roblox community members to abide by our community rules”, it said.

“We do not tolerate copyright infringement”, it added, “which is why we use industry-leading, advanced filtering technology to detect and prohibit unauthorised recordings”. The company also “expeditiously” responds to takedown requests issued under the aforementioned DMCA, it insisted.

“We are committed to continuing to partner with the music industry to unlock new, creative, and commercial opportunities for artists and songwriters through virtual merchandise, exclusive virtual concerts, launch parties, and more”, it then concluded.

Some in the music industry have, of course, been looking at platforms like Roblox as useful new marketing channels in the short-term and possible revenue generators in the long term. And Warner Music has been looking into such things with sufficient interest that it invested in the Roblox company ahead of its stock market listing earlier this year.

However, marketing value will only ever get you so far when it comes placating the music industry, with labels much more likely to be attracted by such promises than the publishers.

Certainly Israelite wasn’t very impressed by Roblox’s response. He told Variety: “Having some deals with some labels and publishers to host music events is in no way legally adequate when you operate a massive platform to which music in integral”.

“Simply announcing community rules and trying to hide behind the DMCA are not sufficient when there are hundreds of thousands of songs being utilised every day without compensating copyright holders”, he added. “Roblox suggesting that we fundamentally misunderstand how they use music is like a bank robber caught in the act telling the bank it fundamentally misunderstands money”.

Oh that’s good line there Dave, well done. It remains to be seen if this legal battle goes all the way or if – more likely – Roblox does ultimately enter into some sort of licensing deals with the music publishers, so that they too can start talking up all the exciting opportunities for music creators within the good old metaverse.