Twitter’s music label legal trouble might have legs

An image showing the X logo superimposed on the Twitter logo
Image: The Verge

The music labels suing Twitter — now X — for copyright infringement can move forward with parts of their lawsuit. In a filing on Tuesday, US District Judge Aleta A. Trauger partially denied X’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, saying it’s still not clear “to what extent X Corp. may be liable for the infringing acts of users on its platform.”

Last year, the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) sued X for $250 million on behalf of Universal Music Group, Concord Music Group, Sony Music Publishing, Warner Chappell Music, and other major publishers.

The lawsuit alleges that X “breeds massive copyright infringement that harms music creators” by failing to take action against posts containing copyrighted music. Copyright issues on X have been a problem even before Elon Musk’s takeover, as the lawsuit cites that the NMPA began sending infringement notices to Twitter “on a weekly basis” in December 2021.

The court is letting some of the NMPA’s claims stand, including allegations that X “allowed users to pay for more forgiving treatment under its anti-infringement policies” through its premium subscription, which allows users to upload longer videos. It also denied X’s motion to dismiss the NMPA’s claims that X failed to respond to claims in a timely manner and didn’t take appropriate action against “repeat infringers.”

However, the judge agreed to dismiss the NMPA’s allegations that X engaged in direct copyright infringement and that the platform is “vicariously liable” for direct infringements by users.

“As the Supreme Court has acknowledged, ‘the lines between direct infringement, contributory infringement, and vicarious liability are not clearly drawn,’” Trauger writes. “The ultimate questions presented by this case are whether and to what extent X Corp. may be liable for the infringing acts of users on its platform.” As the lawsuit moves forward, the judge notes that X’s monitoring and control over users “are relevant to that inquiry,” and so are the platform’s financial incentives to “tolerate infringement.”