BERLIN — SUISA Digital Licensing is suing Twitter International in Munich District Court for copyright infringement on X, the online platform formerly known as Twitter. The suit alleges that music compositions controlled by SUISA Digital are found on the platform, and that the company has made no effort to license them or act promptly to remove the infringing content.
“SUISA Digital is using all of the resources at its disposal to defend the interests of authors and publishers it represents,” said SUISA Digital CEO Fabian Niggemeier in a press release about the lawsuit. “This is the only way we can effectively represent the interests of authors and publishers and ensure that they are compensated fairly by Twitter International.”
Rights to the songs in question, many of which were found in full videos on X, are represented by SUISA Digital, a subsidiary of SUISA, the Swiss collecting society. (SUISA Digital represents both public performance rights and mechanical rights for the works in question.) SUISA Digital says that it has tried to get in touch with X/Twitter in order to negotiate licensing arrangements, but it has yet to receive a serious response.
SUISA Digital also works closely with the U.S. performing rights society SESAC, as partners in their joint venture MINT. “SUISA Digital has our full backing in its lawsuit against Twitter International,” said SESAC International president Alexander Wolf in the press release.
Although SUISA Digital is officially based in Switzerland and Liechtenstein, the organization filed the lawsuit in Munich, since it’s part of a larger market, as well as one that has traditionally been friendly to copyright.
This isn’t the only music infringement lawsuit against X/Twitter. In June, dozens of music publishers sued the company for similar behavior. But there are several important differences between the two cases. In the U.S., X operates under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which offers online platforms “safe harbor” for infringement committed by their users, as long as they act to remove unauthorized content. (The publishers’ suit alleges that the company didn’t do that, or have a policy to ban repeat infringers.)
In Germany, the equivalent law falls under the European Copyright Directive, which is broadly similar but requires platforms to make efforts to license content – which the SESAC lawsuit alleges that Twitter did not do.
The other difference is damages. While the music publishers’ suit could be worth as much as $255 million, although that’s a maximum based on statutory damages, in Germany the case would have to establish damages based on the value of the licenses Twitter needed but did not get. Presumably, the idea behind this lawsuit is to force the Elon Musk-led company to enter into serious licensing negotiations.