Roblox, music publishers settle copyright licensing dispute

Roblox IPO, at the New York Stock Exchange, March 10, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/
  • NMPA said popular game platform encouraged 'massive' user infringement
  • Announcement said settlement allows 'innovative partnerships' in the metaverse

(Reuters) - The National Music Publishers' Association has settled its copyright dispute with the makers of the popular video-game platform Roblox for allegedly encouraging copyright infringement on a "massive scale," according to a Monday filing in Los Angeles federal court.

The trade association – which represents publishers for artists including the Rolling Stones, Ed Sheeran and Ariana Grande – also announced Monday that the settlement "paves the way for innovative partnerships between Roblox and publishers that will offer songwriters new ways to monetize their songs and catalogues."

The parties jointly moved to dismiss the claims with prejudice, and said in the announcement that their agreement is "industry-wide" and lets individual publishers decide whether to opt in. The agreement also opens a period for members to negotiate with Roblox Corp individually.

NMPA president and CEO David Israelite said in a statement that the group was "extremely pleased" with the agreement as Roblox "continues to offer a unique platform for musicians and songwriters in the metaverse," referring to the in-game universe for shared experiences.

Roblox vice president and global head of music Jon Vlassopulos said the company was "delighted to have come to terms with select NMPA members, building on our existing relationships with major publishers."

The NMPA's attorney David Steinberg of Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did Roblox's attorneys Andrew Gass of Latham & Watkins and Colleen Bal of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.

San Mateo, California-based Roblox's platform and game-creation system is popular with children and teenagers, and was valued at more than $45 billion after it went public in March.

The announcement says the agreement with the NMPA will "unlock new ways for music to be more meaningfully integrated into the global Roblox community of more than 48 million daily active users."

The NMPA announced a similar partnership with the popular video game-based livestreaming platform Twitch last week.

The NMPA's June complaint said Roblox encouraged users to upload and share popular music to make the games on its platform "more appealing and attractive to its young audience, fully aware that it has not obtained the necessary permissions."

Roblox responded that it was "surprised and disappointed" by the lawsuit and doesn't tolerate copyright infringement, and denied the allegations in August in an answer to the complaint.

The case is ABKCO Music Inc v. Roblox Corp, U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, No. 2:21-cv-04705.

For the NMPA: David Steinberg of Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp

For Roblox: Andrew Gass of Latham & Watkins; and Colleen Bal of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

Read more:

Music publishers sue Roblox over alleged use of unlicensed songs

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Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Reach him at blake.brittain@thomsonreuters.com