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Warner Music Catalog Now Available on Spotify India

The recent renewal of label and streaming giant’s global licensing partnership means access to more chart-topping and legacy music

Rolling Stone India
Rolling Stone India Apr 03, 2020

Spotify launched in India in February 2019, with the Warner Music catalog now accessible. Photo: Pixabay

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Just over a year after Spotify launched in India, their long-standing hurdle in providing access to the Warner Music catalog to millions of users has now been cleared. It was in mid-January that news of a global licensing partnership between Warner Music Group and Spotify India was announced to be underway.

As of April 3rd, artists big and small, old and new who have their repertoire under Warner Music are now available to stream on Spotify India. That includes everyone from Ed Sheeran to Linkin Park to Death Cab for Cutie, Red Hot Chili Peppers and many more. Previously, Warner Music Group had filed an injunction with the Bombay High Court in February 2019 when Spotify India was using the catalog from the record label behemoth while using a statutory license that applied to broadcasters, including radio stations.

Nasdaq reported that at a conference in April, Spotify’s then-CFO Barry McCarthy told investors, “We’re having a food fight with Warner… It’s not really about India. It’s about leverage and renegotiation of our global agreement.”

With well-known entertainment lawyer Priyanka Khimani (who specializes in IP law) part of Warner’s counsel who argued on their behalf in Mumbai, there’s clearly been a lot to navigate between the two parties. Khimani tells Rolling Stone India, “In recent times, the Indian copyright law has evolved to become far more protective and promoting of songwriters, authors and the artistic community at large. An important aspect of artistic prosperity is the constant safeguarding of the right to voluntarily licence, as opposed to one being availed of compulsorily under a statute.”

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She explains that Section 31D of the Indian Copyright Act, a “statutory license provision,” and the Bombay High Court’s “current interpretation” considers internet streaming “out of the regime of statutory licensing.” This means that internet streaming content is different from radio and television. Khimani adds, “This, in turn, once again upholds the larger scheme of artistic prosperity, giving the copyright owner, and not a statute, or a quasi-judicial body, or an internet service, the right to set the price.”

The copyright owner in this context is Warner Music Group who seem to have successfully argued for a newer (and presumably better) deal with Spotify. In a statement released by Spotify on April 1st, the streaming giant said both parties were “pleased to announce a renewed global licensing partnership.” The statement added, “This expanded deal covers countries where Spotify is available today, as well as additional markets. The two companies look forward to collaborating on impactful global initiatives for Warner artists and songwriters, and working together to grow the music industry over the long term.”

With inputs from Jessica Xalxo.

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