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SoundExchange welcomes court ruling in Slacker dispute

By | Published on Thursday 20 October 2022

Slacker Radio

American collecting society SoundExchange has welcomed a recent ruling in its legal dispute with US personalised radio service Slacker and its parent company LiveOne.

Personalised radio services like those operated by Slacker – so limited functionality streaming – can access recordings in the US via the collective licensing system because of a compulsory licence under American copyright law. SoundExchange administers that licence.

The society went legal in the Californian courts in June, although its dispute with Slacker dates back to 2017, which is the year when the personalised radio set up was acquired by live streaming company LiveXLive Media, which subsequently rebranded as LiveOne.

As it filed its lawsuit in June, SoundExchange stated: “In 2017, Slacker stopped paying statutory royalties to creators whose recordings it was using. SoundExchange has been in negotiations with Slacker since that time to resolve their outstanding balance, but Slacker has failed to meet the terms to which the parties agreed”.

Last week the court sided with the society in the dispute and ordered Slacker to pay $9.7 million in unpaid royalties. It also said that Slacker and LiveOne can no longer rely on the aforementioned compulsory licence, meaning that any future use of recorded music will have to be negotiated bespoke, either with SoundExchange or individual record labels.

Welcoming that ruling, SoundExchange boss Michael Huppe says: “SoundExchange takes our role in defending fair compensation for creators seriously. Despite a prior agreement, multiple promises, and repeated negotiations, Slacker and LiveOne failed to pay properly for the music – on which the companies built their business model”.

“It is regrettable that this step became necessary”, he adds, “but we will not back down when it comes to protecting creators and ensuring they are well-represented and properly paid under the law. We are grateful for the court’s recognition of the value proposition and this judgment in our favour”.