A new battleground is coming into focus in the ongoing clash between emerging tech companies and established music rights holders.
Roblox has been hit with a hefty nine-figure lawsuit filed on behalf of a large collective of music publishers. Plaintiffs in the suit include one of the largest independent music publishers, Downtown Music Publishing, as well as Sony's Kobalt Music Group, Universal Music Publishing, and high-profile artists such as deadmau5.
The suit alleges that Roblox enabled its users to illegally stream copyrighted music across its platform. According to the $200 million complaint, Roblox sells players virtual boomboxes which effectively allow players to stream copyrighted, unlicensed music in the game. The gear has been available since 2015, but it was suddenly pulled in late May from stores without explanation.
As the Wall Street Journal notes, Roblox has an astronomical 42 million daily users, so the opportunity cost to publishers is likely substantial. This follows similar complaints issued against rising tech platforms such as Twitch, whose licensing solution was blasted and ultimately deemed insufficient by the industry's power players late last year, leading to a drawn-out public slog over the issue.
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Roblox responded in a recent statement, maintaining that the company takes action against copyright infringement on its platform and elaborated that they are “surprised and disappointed by this lawsuit which represents a fundamental misunderstanding of how the Roblox platform operates.”