UPDATED: Online-game company Roblox insisted that it does not tolerate copyright infringement, releasing a statement saying it is “surprised and disappointed” by a lawsuit filed on behalf of National Music Publishers’ Association members.
On Wednesday, the NMPA sued Roblox seeking monetary damages of at least $200 million, alleging the platform allows rampant unauthorized use of songs without paying songwriters or copyright holders.
Roblox, in a statement Thursday, said, “We are surprised and disappointed by this lawsuit which represents a fundamental misunderstanding of how the Roblox platform operates, and will defend Roblox vigorously as we work to achieve a fair resolution.”
Roblox also said, “As a platform powered by a community of creators, we are passionate about protecting intellectual property rights – from independent artists and songwriters, to music labels and publishers – and require all Roblox community members to abide by our Community Rules. We do not tolerate copyright infringement, which is why we use industry-leading, advanced filtering technology to detect and prohibit unauthorized recordings.” The company also claimed that it “expeditiously” responds to valid Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown requests and takes action against repeat offenders.
The NMPA alleged in its complaint that Roblox turns a blind eye toward illegal music usage on its game platform. Roblox employs more than 1,000 human moderators to “extensively pre-screen and review each and every audio file uploaded,” according to the lawsuit.
“There is no question that Roblox has the right and ability to stop or limit the infringement on its platform,” the trade group said in its complaint. “But Roblox refuses to do so, so that it can continue to reap huge profits from the availability of unlicensed music. While Roblox touts itself as a platform for ‘user-generated’ content, in reality, it is Roblox — not users — that consciously selects what content appears on its platform.”
As part of its response to the NMPA lawsuit, Roblox said, “We believe the Roblox metaverse provides a massive opportunity for the music industry.” The company noted that it has partnered with several major music labels and publishers for in-game music events attended by millions of fans for such artists including Ava Max, Lil Nas X, Why Don’t We, Royal Blood and Zara Larsson.
“We are committed to continuing to partner with the music industry to unlock new, creative, and commercial opportunities for artists and songwriters through virtual merchandise, exclusive virtual concerts, Launch Parties, and more,” Roblox said.
NMPA president/CEO David Israelite said that Roblox’s response “sounds just like other tech companies who have been caught stealing music and ultimately pay the price.”
“Having some deals with some labels and publishers to host music events is in no way legally adequate when you operate a massive platform to which music in integral,” Israelite said in a statement provided to Variety. “Simply announcing Community Rules and trying to hide behind the DMCA are not sufficient when there are hundreds of thousands of songs being utilized every day without compensating copyright holders. Roblox suggesting that we fundamentally misunderstand how they use music is like a bank robber caught in the act telling the bank it fundamentally misunderstands money.”
Roblox reported average daily active users (DAUs) of 42.1 million for the first quarter of 2021, up 79% year over year. Revenue boomed 140% to $387 million in Q1, while the company’s net loss nearly doubled to $136 million.
Shares of Roblox, which went public this March, were down 1.3% Thursday. The games company has a market capitalization north of $50 billion.
We believe the Roblox metaverse provides a massive opportunity for the music industry, and have partnered with major labels and publishers to host successful music events, attended by millions of fans, for such artists as Ava Max, Lil Nas X, Why Don’t We, Royal Blood, and Zara Larsson. We are committed to continuing to partner with the music industry to unlock new, creative, and commercial opportunities for artists and songwriters through virtual merchandise, exclusive virtual concerts, Launch Parties, and more.
The NMPA lawsuit against Roblox was filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Western Division. The case number is 2:21-CV-04705.