Update June 10th 12:16PM - It is our understanding that does have licenses allowing them to perform cover songs live, but it doesn't allow musicians to record VODs or clips of those songs. In addition, the recent uptick in DMCA claims were all for background music in VODs. A Twitch spokesperson said, "Our conversations with music rights holders, both with labels and publishers, are active and ongoing, and we continue to work with them to establish potential approaches that would be appropriate for the Twitch service and our entire community".
Update June 10th 11:49AM - Roblox has issued a statement addressing the NMPA's lawsuit. The gaming platform says it is "surprised and disappointed" by the lawsuit, which it claims represents a "fundamental misunderstanding" of how Roblox works. The devs say they "expeditiously respond to any valid DMCA request" by removing the content in question, and that they take action against anyone violating rules "in accordance with our stringent repeat infringer policy".
The NMPA also responded, but they directed us to their original press release and did not answer any of our questions.
Original story follows below.
The National Music Publishers' Association is suing Roblox to the tune of $200 million, alleging illegal song usage. NMPA president and CEO David Israelite says Roblox is enticing children to commit piracy without protecting them from the consequences.
Why is the NMPA suing Roblox?
In an NMPA press release spotted by Variety, the NMPA describes Roblox as a "rampant infringer" of music copyright in the gaming industry. Israelite says Roblox has made hundreds of millions of dollars by requiring payment from users when they upload music. Despite this, Roblox "[takes] virtually no action" to stop users from infringing copyright or to inform users about what they're doing, according to Israelite. The text of the lawsuit says Roblox keeps a "library of unlicensed songs" to be distributed in game content. Roblox is "taking for itself" creative and financial investments by the music industry and "willfully refuses" to acquire necessary licenses for distribution.
The NMPA's lawsuit is seeking $200 million in damages for what the organization calls Roblox's "unabashed exploitation of music without proper licenses". Major artists named by the NMPA as being affected by the issue include Ed Sheeran, Imagine Dragons, Ariana Grande, deadmau5, and many others. According to the NMPA, songs by these artists are being utilized "without compensating their writers and copyright holders". The text of the suit says Roblox is "[reaping] huge profits" from the availability of unlicensed music by these artists.
It doesn't look like Roblox will be able to hide behind a safe harbor defense or profess ignorance. According to the lawsuit, Roblox has "stringent and detailed content guidelines" which include reviewing every piece of copyrighted music. This means the devs are directly involved in monitoring the platform, so they couldn't invoke a similar defence to that of, say, YouTube or Twitch, which just issue takedown notices when a copyright claim is made.
The NMPA also points out Roblox hasn't registered an agent with the Copyright Office, and that it has never "reasonably implemented" any kind of policy to ban users who repeatedly post copyright-infringing content. As a result, the NMPA calls Roblox's conduct "rampant and deliberate". Roblox director of digital civility Laura Higgins stated in 2019 that Roblox employs hundreds of human moderators who review content, and that "every uploaded image, video, and audio file" is reviewed to make sure it's safe and age-appropriate for users.
Is the NMPA going after any other platforms for copyright infringement?
It's not just Roblox in the NMPA's crosshairs. While the association isn't suing Twitch, CEO David Israelite has "launched a major ramp-up" of a takedown against the streaming platform. He says Twitch should fully license the music its streamers and content creators use, because this would "allow the platform to flourish" and also allow copyright owners to be compensated for their work. The NMPA says Twitch users have "paid the price" for the platform failing to license music, likely referring to the increasing number of copyright claims against Twitch streamers.
We've reached out to Roblox, Twitch, and the NMPA for comment on this story and will bring you more as soon as we get it. In the meantime, if you're a Roblox content creator, it might be time to start looking at removing any content that features unlicensed music, or at least swapping out the music choice for a royalty-free alternative.
What do you think about the NMPA's Roblox lawsuit? Let us know in the comments below!