Last Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote dismissed Peloton’s counterclaim that the National Music Publisher’s Association (NPMA) had violated anti-trust laws by encouraging smaller music publishers to band together in their negotiations with Peloton. Peloton claimed that this created an unfair environment when negotiating licensing agreements for songs used during classes. The judge stated that Peloton had failed to explain why they needed the particular versions of songs referenced in the claim when the company had been able to reach agreements with other music publishing companies. According to Cote:
Peloton argues that sync licenses are not interchangeable because every song has “nonfungible qualities.” It is true that every copyrighted work has at least some modicum of originality. But, recognition of that fundamental tenet of copyright law does not explain why songs not controlled by the Music Publishers cannot substitute in exercise programming for songs they do control.
For those new to the saga, Peloton has, for the better part of a year, been engaged in a legal battle with the National Music Publisher’s Association (NMPA) over rights to the music instructors play during their classes. NMPA filed the original lawsuit in March, claiming that Peloton should have obtained synchronization licenses, which are used when television shows and movies use songs in their programming.
Peloton instead is seeking catalog-wide licenses that would give their instructors a wide variety of songs to choose from for their workouts, claiming that this is a better fit because instructors create the playlists for their workouts only days or even hours beforehand, unlike television shows or movies who know far in advance what songs they will use.
The lawsuit led to what users call “The Purge,” in which nearly half of Peloton’s On-Demand classes were removed due to copyright violations. There was a smaller purge last fall as well when NPMA expanded their claim and identified another 1,000 songs that were in question.
The same day Judge Cote’s decision was made public, Peloton’s head of music, Paul DeGooyer, sat down with Billboard to discuss Peloton’s musical future and the impact of the legal proceedings. DeGooyer downplays the impact of the purge and insists that “[P]eople aren’t necessarily coming here to to listen to specific music. In fact, they’re coming to have a powerful experience around self betterment and in that context it defeats the whole framing mechanism about how music is perceived and delivered.”
DeGooyer also gives some interesting insight into Peloton’s proprietary music streaming system, Crescendo. For those who claim that the number of songs available to instructors has decreased, DeGooyer reminds us that there are over 1 million songs in Peloton’s database. While musical variety may continue to be a subject of discussion, DeGooyer recommends checking out Emma’s Listening Party rides to check out new artists.