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Peloton removes workout classes featuring allegedly stolen songs

  • Peloton is taking down workout videos that use thousands of popular songs after being sued by nine music publishers.
  • The fitness technology company allegedly failed to obtain so-called sync licenses for hit tunes from artists including Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake.
  • The music publishers suing Peloton are seeking $150 million in damages.

Peloton, the fitness technology company known for its beat-driven cycling classes, is removing workout videos featuring thousands of hit songs the company allegedly used without obtaining proper licenses

Peloton founder and CEO John Foley on Monday responded to the lawsuit filed against the company by a group of nine music publishers, all members of the National Music Publishers' Association (NMPA). The complaint seeks more than $150 million in damages.

"The filing of the lawsuit is unfortunate and disappointing, as it occurred after what appeared to be fruitful discussions with most of the publishers named," he said in a statement. 

The plaintiffs allege Peloton used songs from popular artists including Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga, without first obtaining synchronization, or "sync," licenses, which give an entity permission to release a song in video format. 

NMPA CEO David Israelite disputed Foley's move to strip the platform of some artists' work. 

"The best way for Peloton to prove that it wants to 'partner' with songwriters is to respect their rights and pay them. Removing music that hasn't been properly licensed for years is too little and too late, and proves that Peloton should not have offered such music in the first place," he said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch. 

He said the move unfairly impacts Peloton customers. "This lawsuit was a last resort after months of discussions that were not fruitful, and it is unfortunate that Peloton users are having to bear the brunt of its failure to properly license music by losingf access to some of their favorite songs," he said. 

Peloton reassures customers

Peloton will remove all classes that feature the disputed songs from its slate of workouts.

"While you may notice this in the near term, I can assure you that this will not affect your experience with (or the cost of) our service, or access to the kind of music you're used to hearing behind our instructors in the thousands of classes in our library," Foley said.

Peloton is billed as a "private indoor cycling studio in your home." The company is best known for $2,000 stationary exercise bikes with touchscreens that stream live and on-demand videos of instructor-led classes from physical Peloton studios. Membership costs $39 per month, and music is widely considered to be a core driver of the workout.

"Indeed, Peloton has publicly acknowledged that its consumers 'embrace music as central to the Peloton experience and consistently rank it as one of the top aspects of the brand,'" the lawsuit states.

The interface allows users to search for classes based on their popularity, intensity and soundtracks. Popular playlists across "epic singalong," "club bangers" and "crank it up" rides include songs by Madonna, Sia, Coldplay and more. On Monday, it appeared classes featuring the music in dispute had been removed from the platform.