Home / Insights / Careful What You Say About Copyright on the Internet: Elon Musk’s X Accused of Enabling Infringement

Careful What You Say About Copyright on the Internet: Elon Musk’s X Accused of Enabling Infringement

by | Apr 29, 2024 | Copyrights, Intellectual Property

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is meant to absolve internet hosts of the infringement sins of their users. Without it, they would face the virtually perpetual burden of policing any and all posts for copyrighted material. 

But is there any exception to this protection? In June of last year, an organization representing major music publishers hit X (formerly known as Twitter) with a lawsuit alleging that the platform facilitated the use of copyrighted music in their users’ posts. In other words, the company was accused of enabling infringement.

What is interesting about this case: it has recently been allowed to proceed – so it may have some legs. 

The Players

The plaintiff in this case is technically one group, the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA). But the organization contains numerous heavy hitters in the music industry: Sony, Universal, and Warner Music Group, to name a few. 

Under the NMPA’s umbrella, they claim that X/Twitter has been overly permissive about the usage of copyrighted music on its platform, to the degree of actively enabling infringement. While X is not entirely responsible for how users conduct themselves, the lawsuit asserts that X is not fulfilling the bare minimum of its duties under the DMCA. The question hanging in the balance: can a lawsuit hinge on a company not following the DMCA enough?

To explore this claim, how exactly does the plaintiff think X has demonstrated this overly permissive attitude?

The NMPA cites more than 1700 examples of tweets containing copyrighted music that were allowed to persist on the platform. Furthermore, X actually promoted some tweets with videos that contained infringing music. As a final nail in the coffin, the NMPA points to layoffs at X after Musk’s acquisition of the company. The implication seems to be: there are fewer people to monitor infringement, so, at the very least, X is negligently letting it persist. 

And Then There’s Elon Musk’s Stance on Copyright Law

It does not help that Elon Musk has been especially vocal about copyright law on the very platform accused of enabling its violation. Musk has called the DMCA “overzealous” in posts on X, and he has also criticized copyright law as going “absurdly far” in its protections.

Unfortunately for X, since the lawsuit is founded on the argument that the platform is enabling infringement with intention, Musk’s visible online opinions add fuel to that claim. It is not such a stretch to imagine that Musk and his team could cultivate – or at least allow – a culture of copyright disregard to flourish on X.

Will X Pay For Allegedly Enabling Infringement?

Based on the opinion of U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger, who allowed this case to move forward, it is unlikely that X will face the full consequences of a determined infringer. X’s users still shoulder some of the blame, and the DMCA shield is still somewhat in place. 

However, it looks like these questions of responsibility will be explored in depth through arguments. This is a case to follow for those on either side of the internet power dynamic – platforms and users alike.


Get in Touch with Us

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


Marks Gray P.A.

Connect with Us