Playing with Piracy: Roblox Settles $200M Music Copyright Lawsuit

black vinyl record on black vinyl record
Photo by Eric Krull (Unsplash)

Natalie BravoNatalie Bravo is an IPilogue Writer and a 2L JD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.

Roblox is an online free-to-play gaming platform where users can develop games and play online together. Its increasing popularity among teenagers and children, especially during the pandemic, has sparked multiple viral trends. Music has become a large component of Roblox, with artists like Lil Nas X hosting virtual concerts. Roblox even lets users upload songs for game-building, a feature that resulted in a copyright lawsuit.

Back in June 2021, The National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) sued Roblox for allowing users to upload copyrighted music without paying a licensing fee. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of various music publishers, including major players like Kobalt Music Publishing America and Universal Music Corporation. The NMPA sought $200 million in copyright damages, among other court orders to enhance control over in-game piracy on Roblox.

The Association alleged that “Roblox actively preys on its impressionable user base and their desire for popular music, teaching children that pirating music is perfectly acceptable.” Roblox actively encourages music uploads, charges users, and even sells virtual items to allow for in-game listening. The lawsuit further alleged that Roblox has established control and a moderation team to address content that is against policy but does not monitor music licensing in uploads.

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Roblox signed music partnerships with both BMG and Sony Music Entertainment to license many popular songs. Along with these deals, Roblox expressed a commitment to monitoring DMCA complaints. On September 27, Roblox announced that they have settled their lawsuit with the NMPA, and further expressed that the settlement “sets the foundation for future partnerships with global publishers that will unlock new creative and commercial opportunities on its platform.” The agreement encompasses an expansive licensing agreement between Roblox and the music publishing industry that allows individual publishers to opt-in or enter into individual negotiations.

The settlement is great news for the gaming company and its outlook after going public on the New York Stock Exchange earlier this year. While the deal does not explicitly cover licensing for all songs, it shows that Roblox has a lot more in store on the music front. Hopefully, this means more virtual concerts!

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