In context: It is not enough to pay for the rights to broadcast a song. If you want to display that song's lyrics you must pay a separate licensing fee. Pandora thought it had its bases covered in that respect and has been showing lyrics of over ten years, but litigious music publisher Wixen begs to differ.
Wixen Music Publishing has filed a copyright lawsuit against Pandora, not for playing songs without a license, but rather for displaying their lyrics without one. Wixen represents artist such as Tom Petty, The Doors, Weezer, and many more. It claims that the streaming radio service “knowingly used lyrics without any valid license or authorization.”
As you may recall, Wixen filed a $1.6 billion lawsuit against Spotify last year for using songs without paying royalties. Spotify subsequently settled the case for an undisclosed amount.
Pandora displays lyrics below some songs on both its mobile and desktop players. It has been doing this under a licensing partnership with LyricFind and others for over a decade. Wixen says that the rights within Pandora’s third-party agreements do not include its artists.
Wixen v. Pandora by Adi Robertson on Scribd
It says that the company was aware of this fact as of last year when the music publisher notified them of it. Pandora did remove some lyrics in May 2019, but Wixen claims that its delay in doing so showed “willful and deliberate” copyright infringement.
The publisher is asking the courts for $150,000 per song in damages — the same amount it asked for in the Spotify lawsuit. The complaint did not list the number of songs that had been infringed upon.
Lyric site Genius, who recently accused Google of stealing lyrics, has had copyright disputes with record labels on several occasions and often argued that reprinting a song falls under fair use. However, Genius has never fought it all the way to a court decision, choosing to settle instead.
It is unclear if Pandora’s partnerships include licensing with Wixen, but it doesn’t seem likely. "We thought we had a license" is a poor defense, so it will probably have to fork over a settlement of some kind to avoid losing in court.