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NMPA sues Wolfgang’s Vault

By | Published on Thursday 28 May 2015


The US’s National Music Publishers’ Association has launched legal action against Wolfgang’s Vault, over the licensing (or lack thereof) of the thousands of hours of concert footage in its archive.

Launched in 2003, Wolfgang’s Vault began life as an archive of concert recordings previously owned by promoter Bill Graham, though it now draws on a number of sources for its content.

As it has expanded its collection, the channels through which it disseminates the live recordings, and the ways it monetises its content, the company has proven controversial. Though, while there have been legal challenges in the past, prior to the company launching a download service in 2009 and a YouTube channel last year, no claims have to date reached court.

The NMPA has become increasingly litigious in recent years, in particular targeting unlicensed lyric websites, while last year it proclaimed that current US copyright laws are holding the publishing industry back from achieving its full financial potential.

Yesterday, it filed its copyright infringement lawsuit against Wolfgang’s Vault at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, noting that the company “disseminates concert videos and audio recordings through multiple websites including, and, as well as YouTube”.

“The infringing websites offer tens of thousands of hours of concert footage as on-demand streams, digital downloads, CDs, DVDs and vinyl recordings which generate revenue for Wolfgang’s Vault through subscriptions and advertising”, a statement continues. “They attract approximately 50,000 visitors per day – and all without properly paying the songwriters and music publishers whose creative content underlies the collection”.

Expanding on the dispute, NMPA president David Israelite told reporters: “The Wolfgang’s Vault websites have profited in large part because of the significant use of unlicensed music, primarily concert footage, available on their sites. Systematic copyright infringement cannot be a business model, and it is unfortunate that Wolfgang’s Vault chose not to compensate all of the creators responsible for their content. Hopefully, this lawsuit will bring publishers and many iconic songwriters the revenue they deserve for the use of their music”.

In the past, the NMPA has reached out of court settlements with other video-on-demand services making use of its member’s songs, most notably multi-channel networks Fullscreen and the now Disney-owner Maker Studios. Presumably that’s the sort of outcome the organisation is hoping for here too, rather than having to go through a tedious court battle.