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Swiss collecting society sues Snapchat

By | Published on Monday 16 May 2022


The digital licensing unit of Swiss song rights collecting society SUISA last week announced it was suing Snapchat through the German courts for using songs it represents on the social media platform without licence.

Snapchat and its owner Snap Inc was relatively late to the music licensing party, but has announced deals with the majors, Merlin and some music publishers in recent years, following the lead of its rivals Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, and recognising that music – including offering an in-built music library – is an increasingly key part of being a content sharing platform.

However, it seems, no licensing deal has been struck with SUISA Digital, which represents not just the digital rights of SUISA’s own Swiss songs repertoire, but also the digital rights of a number of other collecting societies and music publishers.

The licensing deals it agrees on behalf of those societies and publishers are then administered by MINT, the rights hub it launched in partnership with US society SESAC.

Setting out its grievances, SUISA said in a statement: “Snap has refused to pay for the music it uses on Snapchat. SUISA Digital’s attempts to negotiate with Snap have been unsuccessful”.

“Snap’s stance is that it does not use any songs from SUISA Digital’s repertoire”, it added. “This statement is false. A large number of works in SUISA Digital’s repertoire is available on the Snapchat platform and is used by users without Snap having acquired a licence from SUISA Digital”.

“As a result of Snap’s refusal to license and infringing conduct”, it went on, “SUISA Digital has filed a lawsuit against Snap with the Hamburg District Court. Through its lawsuit, SUISA Digital seeks to ensure the authors and publishers it represents are adequately compensated for the ongoing, illegal use of their creative work”.

Commenting on the litigation, SUISA Digital CEO Fabian Niggemeier said: “SUISA Digital is using all of the resources at its disposal to defend the interests of authors and publishers it represents and is taking resolute action against the illegal use of music. This is the only way we can effectively represent the interests of authors and publishers and ensure that they are compensated fairly by Snap”.

The Swiss society’s partner in digital licensing matters, SESAC, also backed the legal action. It’s President Of International, Alexander Wolf, added: “SESAC has been working closely with SUISA for years as part of our joint venture MINT. As a result, SUISA Digital has our full backing in its lawsuit against Snap. Snap has benefited from the creative work of authors and publishers for years. We expect Snap to recognise the value of the work”.