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99 Problems: is fraud one?

Shawn Carter (or Jay-Z as he is more commonly known) has seen his company Tidal accused of a serious royalties’ fraud. The accusation is made by the Norwegian financial publication Dagens Naeringsliv (“Dagens”), and centres on the allegation that Tidal (a music streaming platform) has been artificially inflating the “user play counts” of songs by Beyoncé and Kanye West.

Dagens relies on analysis by the Norwegian Center for Cyber and Information Security, and in its accusation it specifically names Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo” and Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” as albums that have been artificially boosted by “over 320 million false plays”.

The investigation unearthed various instances of suspicious activity, such as a single user playing multiple songs simultaneously or repeatedly playing the same song at regular intervals. One Tidal user appeared to have listened to tracks from Lemonade 251 times in a 24-hour period.

The suspicious activity only came to light because of Tidal’s own bold claims to listener figures: in 2016 Tidal claimed that The Life of Pablo had been streamed 250 million times in the first 10 days after its release. That may not seem absurd in isolation, but when you learn that Tidal only had 3 million subscribers at that time, it is obvious that something does not add up.

Did each subscriber really listen to the album 8 times per day for 10 consecutive days? Such a claim led to huge royalty payments to each of Beyoncé and Kanye West, which took up a disproportionate amount of Tidal’s royalty payout to artists that year.

Tidal have denied any wrongdoing, and claims that the report in to stream manipulation is false. Tidal have also claimed that the underlying data (which is billions of rows of code) was stolen. Tidal claims that it is the victim of a smear campaign.

It is unclear whether the accusations will now be presented in a claim to a Norwegian court, and if so which one.

If you have any questions on the above, please do not hesitate to contact the team at McDaniel & Co. on 0191 281 4000 or legal@mcdanielslaw.com.