Roblox Hit With $200 Million Lawsuit by National Music Publishers’ Association

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The National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) has filed a lawsuit against the video game developer Roblox Corporation, alleging that the company’s flagship game is violating numerous artists’ songwriting copyrights, as Variety reports and Pitchfork can confirm via court records. The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of multiple plaintiffs including ABKCO Music & Records, Big Machine Records, Hipgnosis, Kobalt Music Group, Downtown Music Publishing, UMPG, and more, is seeking minimum damages of $200 million.

NMPA president/CEO David Israelite discussed the lawsuit during a speech yesterday (June 9). He reportedly accused Roblox of making “hundreds of millions of dollars by requiring users to pay every time they upload music onto the platform—taking advantage of young people’s lack of understanding about copyright—and then they take virtually no action to prevent repeat infringement or alert users to the risks they are taking.”

As Variety also reports, Roblox Corporation has responded to the lawsuit, writing in a statement:

As a platform powered by a community of creators, we are passionate about protecting intellectual property rights—from independent artists and songwriters, to music labels and publishers—and require all Roblox community members to abide by our Community Rules. We do not tolerate copyright infringement, which is why we use industry-leading, advanced filtering technology to detect and prohibit unauthorized recordings. We expeditiously respond to any valid Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) request by removing any infringing content and, in accordance with our stringent repeat infringer policy, taking action against anyone violating our rules.

We are surprised and disappointed by this lawsuit which represents a fundamental misunderstanding of how the Roblox platform operates, and will defend Roblox vigorously as we work to achieve a fair resolution.

We believe the Roblox metaverse provides a massive opportunity for the music industry, and have partnered with major labels and publishers to host successful music events, attended by millions of fans, for such artists as Ava Max, Lil Nas X, Why Don’t We, Royal Blood, and Zara Larsson. We are committed to continuing to partner with the music industry to unlock new, creative, and commercial opportunities for artists and songwriters through virtual merchandise, exclusive virtual concerts, Launch Parties, and more.

As detailed in a recent New York Times piece, Roblox allows users to create their own games using their engine, and offers them the ability to pay to upload custom audio to that end. The Roblox Communtiy Rules state that copyrighted content should not be uploaded to the platform (“Do not upload or use content or materials that you do not own or have permission from the owner to use”), but, as The Times notes, many users circumvent any detection algorithms by distorting or disguising the audio to “bypass” those blockers.

As Roblox has exploded in popularity over the past year—it added 50 million monthly users during 2020, according to Wired—it has attracted the attention of artists looking to do digital activations. Artists like Lil Nas X and Weyes Blood have previously partnered with Roblox to host in-game events. And, as Music Business Worldwide notes, Warner Music Group holds a multi-million dollar stake in Roblox as of January 2021.



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