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LAWSUIT

Sweden’s Spotify hit by new $200 million action

Swedish music streaming leader Spotify has been hit by a new copyright lawsuit seeking $200 million, in the second such case within weeks.

Sweden's Spotify hit by new $200 million action
The Swedish company has been accused of adopting "a now familiar strategy for many digital music services -- infringe now, apologize later." Photo: Erik Mårtensson / SCANPIX

The lawsuits, each filed by individual artists in a US federal court in Los Angeles, ask a judge to create a class-action suit in which other alleged victims can collectively seek damages.

The latest lawsuit was filed Friday by Melissa Ferrick, the Massachusetts-based indie folk singer who teaches at the prestigious Berklee College of Music and rose to prominence as Morrissey's last-minute opening act on his 1991 tour.

Ferrick accused Spotify, which boasts of providing a massive selection of on-demand music, of failing to inform copyright owners when it created phonorecords, the files used to provide the instant music online.

Ferrick charged that the Swedish company, not wanting to delay its growth including its US launch in 2011, took “a now familiar strategy for many digital music services — infringe now, apologize later.”

“Spotify chose expediency over licenses. Thus, while Spotify has profited handsomely from the music that its sells to its subscribers, the owners of that music (in particular, songwriters and their music publishers) have not been able to share in that success because Spotify is using their music for free,” the lawsuit said.

Ferrick said that her songs have been streamed or temporarily downloaded one million times in the past three years over Spotify but said the company did not license them as required.

Ferrick's lawsuit sought at least $200 million on behalf of copyright holders from Spotify, a private company which says it has more than 75 million users and has been valued at $8 billion.

Spotify was hit in late December by another lawsuit seeking a class-action suit filed by David Lowery, the leader of alternative rock bands Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven who is also an academic.

Lowery, whose lawsuit sought at least $150 million, also accused Spotify of failing to seek permission for copying or distributing songs.

His lawsuit had a slightly different argument, accusing Spotify of ignoring mechanical rights — the permission to reproduce copyrighted material.

In response to Lowery's lawsuit, Spotify said it was trying to compensate every rights holder but that data was often missing.

“We are committed to paying songwriters and publishers every penny,” Spotify spokesman Jonathan Prince said at the time.

Spotify says it has paid back $3 billion to music-makers, has set aside money for future payouts and is working to find technical solutions to avoid future problems.

Streaming, both on Spotify and competing services such as Apple Music and Tidal, has been rapidly growing and contributed to a net rise in music consumption in the United States last year.

LAWSUIT

Spanish woman sues for millions after learning she was switched at birth

A 19-year-old woman is seeking millions of euros in damages after it emerged that she was accidentally swapped with another newborn at a Spanish hospital nearly two decades ago.

Spanish woman sues for millions after learning she was switched at birth
Photo: Loic Venance/AFP

The babies were mixed up in 2002 after they were born five hours apart and placed in incubators at the San Millan de Logrono in northern Spain, due to a “one-off human error,” regional health authorities said.

The error was discovered four years ago after one of the girls who was switched underwent a DNA test as part of dispute over child support payments.

The woman, now 19, is demanding compensation of €3 million ($3.5 million) from health authorities for having been handed to the wrong family, her lawyer Jose Saez-Morga told AFP.

“We are talking about huge damages, which will last her whole life and which will never be repaired,” he said.

Health authorities in the Rioja region have so far only offered the woman, who prefers to remain anonymous, 215,000 euros in compensation, he added.

The regional health chief, Sara Alba, said computer systems back then did not have as many details as they do today, and stressed that a similar mix-up could not happen again.

Officials are “not aware” of any other cases at the hospital, which has since closed, she told a news conference on Tuesday.

“We have not been able to determine who is to blame for this mistake,” Alba said.

“It was a one-off human error which could not happen today. We can guarantee that this will not happen again.”

Saez-Morga said the other young woman switched at birth and her family have also undergone DNA testing.

She has also asked to remain anonymous and has so far not filed a lawsuit, he added.

According to Spanish media reports, one woman was sent to live with a couple who she believed to be her parents while the other, who has filed the lawsuit, was raised mostly by a woman she mistakenly thought was her grandmother.

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