UK Court Rules that TuneIn Radio Infringed Sony & Warner’s Copyrights

Written by Bill Toulas
Last updated September 27, 2021

The British High Court of Justice in London has ruled in favor of Warner Music UK Ltd. and Sony Music Entertainment UK Ltd. The legal case had started back in 2017 when the plaintiffs sued TuneIn for copyright infringement. TuneIn is an online audio streaming service that is enjoyed by more than 75 million users, delivering music, radio feed, podcasts, live news, and more. TuneIn isn’t hosting any content on its platform, but instead provides hyperlinks to it. As the court ruled, these hyperlinks lead to non-licensed material, and thus indexing them is a case of copyright infringement.

The case was based on the fact that music is being licensed in certain regions, but TuneIn ignored these details completely. The labels also maintained that TuneIn needed a license to carry out its operation in this way, but the internet radio still considers this to go against the main essence of internet communications, putting geographic restrictions where there technically aren’t any, and wrongfully correlating links to the actual content. While the court recognized that TuneIn offered some feeds legitimately, feeds of radio stations that were not licensed in the UK or not licensed at all were deemed as blatant cases of copyright infringement.

The detailed verdict also covers the liability of users recording the audio feeds, and how this is aiding and abetting of copyright infringing activities. Also, the court decides that the safe harbor provisions that TuneIn relied on aren’t applicable in its case, and don’t lift the recognized liabilities. All that said, TuneIn can no longer operate in the UK in the same way that it has been operating so far. To continue, the platform will either have to obtain a full license for the content they link to or remove the thousands of radio stations that are underpinning the copyright infringement problem.

This opens Pandora's box for all radio streaming platforms that operate in the UK, and there are quite a lot of them out there actually. These apps and platforms generate revenue through the provision of copyright-infringing links and don’t compensate the creators or the rightsholders for the use of their material. They will either have to share that revenue with the creators as well as middlemen or fundamentally change their business model.

TuneIn’s CEO Juliette Morris responded to us,"Today in the U.K., a judgment was announced in a lawsuit involving TuneIn, the leading directory service identifying freely available audio content on the Internet, and Sony Music and Warner Music regarding the availability of music radio stations to TuneIn users in the U.K. The U.K. Court found in favor of TuneIn on the most important claim, confirming that music radio stations licensed in the U.K. can be made available through the TuneIn service to TuneIn’s U.K. users. 

While we continue to evaluate the ruling and consider all options, including appeal, we believe the judgment will have very little impact on the company’s revenue and ongoing growth strategies. We won on the most important element of the case, which was the right to provide U.K. users with access to U.K.-authorized radio stations. TuneIn is committed to complying with all applicable laws in the countries we serve and will continue to defend the right to operate a directory service providing listeners access to content freely available on the Internet.

Do you use TuneIn or any other internet radio service? Let us know in the comments down below, or on our socials, on Facebook and Twitter.

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