Eight Mile Style, a publishing company that holds administration rights to Eminem’s early catalog, filed a major copyright infringement lawsuit against Spotify late Thursday, claiming that the streaming giant has no license to host about 250 of Eminem’s songs, while also taking aim at the Music Modernization Act, the federal law enacted last year to improve royalty payments for songwriters. The news was first reported by The Hollywood Reporter.
The suit, filed in Nashville Wednesday, accuses Spotify, the $26 billion Stockholm-based streaming behemoth, of not living up to its obligations under the MMA, while also targeting the act itself.
It claims that Spotify has streamed Eminem’s work billions of times without a license. “Spotify has not accounted to Eight Mile or paid Eight Mile for these streams but instead remitted random payments of some sort, which only purport to account for a fraction of those streams,” it reads. It also says that Spotify has placed “Lose Yourself” into a category called “Copyright Control,” a category for songs for which the owner is not known, calling it “absurd” that Spotify would be unable to locate the copyright owner of “one of the most well-known songs in history.”
Contacted by Variety, a rep for Spotify had no comment.
Eminem himself is not party to the lawsuit; Eight Mile Style’s administration role in his early catalog gives it the capacity to file such lawsuits without his involvement.
“Spotify did not have any license to reproduce or distribute the Eight Mile Compositions, either direct, affiliate, or compulsory, but acted deceptively by pretending to have compulsory and/or other licenses,” the lawsuit reads. “In addition, Spotify instructed the Harry Fox Agency to send purported “royalty statements” out, when Spotify and HFA knew the compositions were not licensed via the compulsory license, or otherwise, to further lead Eight Mile and others into believing the songs were licensed and Eight Mile was being paid properly. In fact, neither was true.”
The MMA in part offered a form of amnesty for previous copyright infringement, and Eight Mile is contesting that element’s constitutionality, and says Spotify “knew what they were doing” in the “unconstitutional taking of Eight Mile’s and others vested property right was not for public use but instead for the private gain of private companies.”
“In addition,” the suit continues, “as pleaded further below, even after the enactment of the Music Modernization Act of 2018, Spotify did not comply with its requirements, and does not therefore enjoy the limitations of liability under the MMA. Even if it had, as also discussed below, the MMA’s retroactive elimination of the right of a plaintiff to receive profits attributable to infringement, statutory damages, and attorneys’ fees, is an unconstitutional denial of due process (both procedural and substantive), and an unconstitutional taking of vested property rights.”
“While we are confident that the Music Modernization Act is Constitutional, the law does place important obligations on digital services and they should be expected to live up to their responsibilities,’ said National Music Publishers Associated CEO David Israelite.
Representing Eight Mile in the case is attorney Richard Busch, who represented Marvin Gaye’s heirs in the pivotal 2015 “Blurred Lines” case, which saw the family winning a $5.3 million decision against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams on the grounds that their song infringed on the copyright of Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up.” He also previously lodged a dispute against Universal Music Group questioning whether digital downloads should be categorized as “licenses” or “sales.”
While the Music Modernization Act, signed into law by President Trump last October, was viewed as a huge victory by songwriters and the publishing community, Eminem’s lawsuit takes aim at what it describes as weaknesses in the act.
“First, by its terms, the MMA liability limitation section only applies to compositions for which the copyright owner was not known, and to previously unmatched works (compositions not previously matched with sound recordings), and not to ‘matched’ works for which the DMP [Digital Music Provider] knew who the copyright owner was and just committed copyright infringement,” Eight Mile’s complaint reads in part, asserting that Spotify “did not engage in the required commercially reasonable efforts to match sound recordings with the Eight Mile Compositions as required by the MMA.”