That may be true — although Lowery can be found easily enough online — but the Copyright Act requires streaming services to get a mechanical license before they use a song. Indeed, in the event that Lowery’s case goes to trial, Spotify’s decision to set aside money for future royalty payments could potentially demonstrate either that the company has been acting in good faith or that it knew it did not have mechanical licenses for at least some of the songs it was streaming.
“The law is pretty black and white,” says Donald Passman, a veteran music business lawyer and the author of All You Need to Know About the Music Business. “If you’re using someone’s songs, you have to pay them.”
Rather than argue these cases in court, streaming services will probably try to prevent classes from being certified — Spotify already filed a motion to dismiss Lowery’s case on jurisdictional grounds. The high cost of federal litigation would make it impractical for the vast majority of songwriters to pursue legal action on their own.