Spotify launches in India amidst legal battle with Warner

Bombay’s high court said that Spotify could still launch

Illustration by Alex Castro

Spotify is quietly rolling out in India, despite a legal challenge from Warner Music Group that is currently keeping major artists from its publishing arm like Cardi B off the platform. A number of people in India say they’ve been able to download the app on Android and sign up for an account, though Spotify hasn’t formally announced the service’s availability.

Spotify first announced plans to expand into the Indian market back in March of 2018, but has faced repeated delays due to the unique nature of India’s music rights marketplace. Scores of local Indian labels and publishers make it challenging to pull all the rights together, there are multiple regional languages to contend with, and only a small percentage of Indians have a credit card.

But the biggest delay was a deal with Warner’s publishing division, Warner/Chappell Music, that fell apart at the last minute. According to Spotify, Warner “revoked a previously agreed-upon publishing license for reasons wholly unrelated to Spotify’s launch in India.”

Yesterday, Warner sued to stop Spotify’s use of its catalog, which Spotify had tried to obtain rights to through a controversial amendment to the Indian copyright act that allows for broadcasters to obtain licenses without the copyright owner’s consent. At the heart of this is whether or not Spotify falls under the umbrella of “broadcaster” in India’s Copyright Act of 1957. In the act, a “broadcast” is only defined as “communication to the public.”

Bombay’s high court said that Spotify would still be allowed to launch for now, according toThe Times of India, and it appears Spotify wasted no time in doing just that. It seems that if Spotify chooses to stream Warner’s music in the meantime, Spotify will be required to track usage of Warner’s music and set aside money to pay royalties while the case continues through the courts. For now, Spotify is live in India, but without the Warner/Chappell Music catalog, which hosts many of the world’s biggest artists.

In India, Spotify’s pricing structure offers a lot more payment flexibility than other markets. The service can cost as little a 99 rupees ($1.39 USD) per month for a one-year plan. But the service also offers the ability to buy just a single day of access for 13 rupees ($0.18), one week for 39 rupees ($0.55), and one single month for 129 rupees ($1.81), among other plans. A student plan offers up to 50 percent off per month. As of now, it appears the only payment accepted for subscriptions is Visa or Mastercard, but there’s the option to also use Paytm or UPI to buy the pre-paid plans.

Right now, according to Business Insider India, Premium membership is only available to existing Spotify users. New users can still sign up for the free version, but will have to wait in order to access Premium benefits like higher quality audio and unlimited track skips.

Categories include pop, rock, and indie, along with India-specific genres like Tamil and Bollywood. Notably, at the bottom of the app screen is a message saying, “We’re working hard to get more music on Spotify in your region.”

A number of people on Reddit also wrote that they were able to access the service on Android. Others who are already Spotify customers have been able to access the purchase page by changing the country associated with their profile to India.

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