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Court of Appeal in the UK Rules That TuneIn Infringed Copyrights


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TuneIn’s hopes to overturn the British High Court of Justice’s 2019 ruling have faded away, as the UK Court of Appeal upheld that the service infringed the copyrights of plaintiffs, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group. This is an unfortunate development for TuneIn and its users, as the service will have to continue imposing geo-restrictions in accessing UK radios, a practice that was introduced last September in response to the legal pressure.

To give you an overview of the case, which started back in 2017, the aforementioned music labels felt that TuneIn was violating their rights because the online audio streaming service was allowing anyone from all corners of the world to listen to radio stations that were playing music that wasn’t licensed globally, or isn’t licensed in the UK, or is bound to special agreements.

So, having that music reproduced on TuneIn constitutes copyright infringement, as TuneIn doesn’t consider the special geo-restrictions that could apply for each song that is played on a radio station 24/7. The plaintiffs proposed that TuneIn either shares the revenue with the creators and the middlemen or stop broadcasting these radio stations altogether.

With the review and the ruling of the Court of Appeal, the case is over, and the plaintiffs may celebrate a decisive win. For TuneIn and all music streaming services and online radio station platforms, this could be the beginning of serious complications. This decision clarifies that these services can only operate without legal trouble if they have all of the required licenses from the rights holders who own the music that is broadcasted. There’s just no getting around this obligation, and the fact that TuneIn has had most of its arguments dully rejected by the judge underlines this.

For UK-based users of the TuneIn, this is definitely needless trouble, as they can still get around the geo-restrictions by using a VPN tool. Also, other platforms continue to offer what TuneIn found trouble for, at least for now, so many will simply use a different service. Sony and Warner targeted TuneIn because the platform was very popular, but they may have to play an endless whack-a-mole game with other services from now on.

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