Snapchat owner sued by Swiss collection society for ‘refusing to pay authors and publishers for music on its platform’

The Snapchat story has, by most accounts, been a rosy one for the music business in recent times.

The Snap Inc.-owned platform has struck licensing agreements with the likes of Warner Music Group, Universal Music Groupand Sony Music Entertainment in the past two years – during a period where Snapchat’s user base has grown significantly.

Indeed, in Snap’s most recent quarterly fiscal results (Q1 2022), announced last month, the company confirmed that it now reaches 332 million Daily Active Users (DAU) globally – up by 52 million, or 18%, year-over-year.

However, today (May 12), relations between the music biz and Snapchat have taken a sour turn.

SUISA, the collection society for songwriters and publishers in Switzerland, has announced that its subsidiary – SUISA Digital Licensing – has filed a lawsuit against Snap Inc. for alleged copyright infringement.

SUISA contends that Snapchat “refuses to pay authors and publishers for music represented by [SUISA Digital] and used in videos on its Snapchat platform.

This story becomes a weightier one when you consider SUISA’s relationships in the global music market – particularly the fact that it co-owns and operates a joint venture, MINTwith major-league US-based collection group

“Snap has benefited from the creative work of authors and publishers for years. We expect Snap to recognise the value of the work.”

Alexander Wolf, SESAC

Its repertoire includes over 80,000 songwriters, composers, publishers and approximately 10 million works.

SUISA Digital has concluded license agreements for worldwide uses with more than 80 digital music providers.

These are administered by Mint Digital Services (MINT).

In a media release today, SUISA Digital said: “Snapchat is one of the most popular online platforms in the world and offers a wide range of music for its users to embed in videos and listen to free of charge.

“This lawsuit follows SUISA Digital’s repeated attempts to license Snapchat for almost two years.”

It added: “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. 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 license from SUISA Digital.”

SUISA Digital has filed a lawsuit against Snap with the Hamburg District Court.

Through its lawsuit, SUISA Digital says “seeks to ensure the authors and publishers [we] represent are adequately compensated for the ongoing, illegal use of their creative work”.

The org is demanding in its suit that Snap “fully discloses its figures relating to its uses and to the turnover realized with its music offers on the platform Snapchat”.

SUISA Digital is represented by the law firm Lausen Rechtsanwälte.

“This is the only way we can effectively represent the interests of authors and publishers and ensure that they are compensated fairly by Snap.”

Fabian Niggemeier, SUISA Digital

Fabian Niggemeier, CEO of SUISA Digital, 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.”

Announcing Snap Inc.’s Q1 2022 results last month, the company’s CEO, Evan Spiegel, said: “Our first quarter results reflect the underlying momentum in our business through a challenging operating environment, as we grew our community 18% year-over-year to reach 332 million, and our revenue grew 38% year-over-year to reach $1.06. billion for the quarter.

“We remain focused on providing value for our growing community, delivering ROI for our advertising partners, and investing against our enormous opportunity in augmented reality.”Music Business Worldwide

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