Fitness giant Peloton has announced it has filed for its initial public offering of stock despite a pending lawsuit for the unauthorized use of more than 1,000 songs in its programs.
Ten music publishers including Pulse Music Publishing, Ultra Music, and Downtown Music Publishing filed suit against Peloton in March 2019, accusing the company of copyright infringement for more than 1,000 songs. Music at issue included songs from artists Rihanna, Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, Drake and more, which were allegedly used in some of Peloton’s 13,000 workout programs.
According to National Music Publisher’s Association president and CEO David Israelite’s an interview in Billboard from March, the suit alleges “many instances where they didn’t clear any of the song. This is not just a case of fractional licensing, this is a case of wholesale failure to secure licenses in some instances.”
Israelite compares Peloton’s oversight as “the equivalent of making the movie Bohemian Rhapsody and not bothering to clear the rights to use the Queen music.”
Despite professing “great respect for songwriters and artists,” Peloton countersued the music publishers a month later, claiming the publishers’ group of a “coordinated effort… to fix prices and to engage in a concerted refusal to deal with Peloton.” Which sounds like the exact opposite of how music publishers make money.
Peloton also removed the offending tracks, leading to complaints from users about “bad music” inserted as replacements. “It has affected the way I work out. I find myself scrolling through classes for at least five minutes before I can find a playlist with 50 percent decent songs,” one user told The Verge in April. “It’s annoying.”
A random survey of public tweets (and Reddit posts) from users on the issue seems to confirm that the music Peloton used and then removed was a pretty important part of the experience:
@onepeloton Hey Peloton. What’s the timeframe on fixing this music licensing issue? Love my bike, but the old school music is starting to take a toll on myself and the rest of the riders that I referred to you guys.
— Manuel (@mannyt48) June 1, 2019
Hey @onepeloton when is there going to be normal music back on Peloton playlists? I feel like sorting out music licensing rights is fairly important to customer retention.
— Minion Capital (@MinionCapital) May 18, 2019
It’s unclear what effect the pending suit will have upon Peloton’s IPO fortunes. Earlier estimates based upon venture capital funding suggested the company was worth $4 billion. The publishers’ lawsuit asks for $150 million in damages.