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TuneIn receives mixed verdict in UK label lawsuit

TuneIn has lost a legal battle in the UK brought by two of the major labels. Warner Music and Sony Music brought a suit against the digital radio operator in 2017, charging that TuneIn was offering access to international stations that did not have the licenses to play music in the UK.

“Today’s judgement confirms what we have long known to be true: that TuneIn is unlawfully redistributing and commercializing links to unlicensed music on a widespread scale,” a representative from Sony Music Entertainment said. A Warner spokesperson also released a statement, hoping that TuneIn would “operate on a fully licensed basis and fairly pay rights holders for the music that it’s using to generate revenue” as a result of the ruling.

The UK court did have a determination in favor of TuneIn. The platform will be able to continue providing UK listeners with music radio stations that are licensed for that region.

“While we continue to evaluate the ruling and consider all options, including appeal, we believe the judgment will have very little impact on the company’s revenue and ongoing growth strategies,” TuneIn CEO Juliette Morris said. “We won on the most important element of the case, which was the right to provide U.K. users with access to U.K.-authorized radio stations. TuneIn is committed to complying with all applicable laws in the countries we serve and will continue to defend the right to operate a directory service providing listeners access to content freely available on the Internet.”

Anna Washenko

2 Comments

  1. “unlawfully redistributing and commercializing links to unlicensed music”

    What do you think may be more important there, the redistributing part of the commercializing parts?

    Because TuneIn isn’t streaming these stations themselves. Nor are they paying music royalties. They’re just an app and a radio directory, and if they didn’t keep promoting themselves as the world’s largest radio network, etc, they may have not been targeted.

    After all, there are plenty of other radio apps with directories that provide global access to internet radio.

    It still seems problematic that radio stations are required to have licenses in every place they’re received.We need global licensing, otherwise the licensing costs will exceed revenue. This is especially true of non-comm and college radio stations.

    How was that handled with Shortwave radio, or even cross-boarder radio stations?

  2. Actually, TuneIn is no longer just a directory service. They do, in fact, operate their own music channels, and a few years ago they stopped the practice of adding new independent streaming radio services to their directory (try submitting a new station/streaming URL to them and they will reply stating they are no longer adding new Internet-only stations to their directory).

    For the channels they do operate themselves, they would be liable for royalties to whomever collects them. But I can’t imagine them being liable for the others.

    I agree that a global licensing solution is key to success for independent Internet stations of all shapes and sizes. The current geo-fencing practice of containing a stream to where royalties are covered simply doesn’t work.

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