Eminem’s publisher, Eight Mile Style, is suing Spotify. It claims the music-streaming service failed to correctly copyright the rapper’s work.
Eminem has never been properly paid for songs “streamed on Spotify billions of times”, court papers say.
And Spotify, which has yet to respond publicly, put the song Lose Yourself into a category for unknown authors, without copyright protection, which Eight Mile Style calls “absurd”.
Lose Yourself, recorded and produced by Eminem and his long-time collaborators Jeff Bass and Luis Resto, was the first hip-hop song to win an Academy Award.
Eight Mile Style is suing for approximately £30m, the maximum damages for each of what it says are 243 copyright-infringed songs.
“Spotify acted deceptively by pretending to have compulsory and/or other licences,” court papers claim.
The publisher further accuses Spotify of not complying with the 2018 Music Modernisation Act, a US regulation designed to pay songwriters when their music is streamed.
Under the regulations, the online streaming service must make “reasonable efforts” to identify and locate each copyright owner of work that might be categorised as unknown.
The court papers accuse the streaming service of lacking the infrastructure needed to make sure songs are licensed and musicians are paid.
Eight Mile is being represented by Richard Busch, a Nashville attorney whose appearance in this matter is notable. A decade ago, he handled a trailblazing case on behalf of the company that produced Eminem’s early work. That dispute against Universal Music Group explored whether digital downloads should be treated as “licenses” or “sales” — a meaningful accounting difference that changed the economics of distributing music in the iTunes era. More recently, besides famously representing Marvin Gaye’s family in its successful copyright suit over “Blurred Lines,” Busch took on Spotify in a pair of cases that alleged rampant infringement. Those recently settled cases may have played some role in the passage of the Music Modernization Act by convincing Spotify and other music distributors to come to the negotiating table for new legislation.
Before the Music Modernization Act, a persistent problem for those digitally distributing music was identifying and locating the co-authors of tens of millions of copyrighted musical works. Under copyright law, Spotify could obtain a compulsory license for its mechanical reproduction of a song, but it needed to send out a “notice of intention” and make required payments. Spotify, like others, works with the Harry Fox Agency to comply, but past class action lawsuits alleged Spotify had fallen short on efforts.
The new law was meant to alleviate the difficulty of “matching” songs with their owners through a database run by a Mechanical Licensing Collective, which will grant blanket licenses beginning in 2021. At a signing ceremony, Trump was flanked by such musicians as Kid Rock and John Rich, and he talked how the new law is good for the music community. “I’ve been reading about this for many years and never thought I’d be involved in it, but I got involved in it,” said Trump. “They were treated very unfairly. They’re not going to be treated unfairly anymore.”
The Music Modernization Act was hailed by both song publishers (“We are humbled by the extraordinary progress propelled by compromise,” said National Music Publishers Assn. president David Israelite at the time) as well as the Digital Media Association, the lobbying voice of the streaming industry. “The MMA will benefit the music community and create a more transparent and streamlined approach to music licensing and payment for artists,” said Horacio Gutierrez, Spotify’s general counsel and vp business and legal affairs, upon the law’s enactment.