Photo: Amy Harris/Invision (AP)
Rapper Eminem’s publisher is suing Spotify, claiming that the music streaming giant is infringing on hundreds of his copyrights as well as “challenging the constitutionality of a recently passed music licensing law,” the Hollywood Reporter wrote on Wednesday.
According to the Reporter, Eminem’s publisher Eight Mile Style claimed in a suit filed in federal court in Nashville on Wednesday that Spotify had illegally reproduced about 250 of his songs on the service, streaming them billions of times but only paying Eight Mile “random payments of some sort, which only purport to account for a fraction of those streams.” The suit specifically claimed that Spotify categorized some of Eminem’s work under a “Copyright Control” section in which the IP holders are unknown, when it would be impossible for the streaming service not to recognize his music (especially since 32 million people follow Eminem on the service).
The Reporter wrote:
According to the complaint, a copy of which was obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, Spotify has no license for Eminem’s compositions, and despite streaming these works billions of times, “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.”
The suit adds that Spotify has placed “Lose Yourself” into a category called “Copyright Control,” reserved for songs for which the owner is not known. Eight Mile attacks the “absurd” notion that it can’t be identified as the owner of such an iconic song, which was the centerpiece of the 2002 film 8 Mile, hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and won an Oscar for best original song. According to chart data, Eminem is among the most followed artists on Spotify with monthly listens on par with Bruno Mars, Coldplay and Taylor Swift.
Per the Reporter, Eight Mile is not only further alleging that Spotify is not in compliance with the Music Modernization Act, but that sections of the law that extended immunity to streamers for past violations are unconstitutional. Eight Mile contended in the lawsuit that retroactively wiping out the artist’s ability to recover profits as well as damages and legal fees from Spotify for past violations is “an unconstitutional taking of Eight Mile’s vested property right” under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. From the lawsuit:
Given the penny rate for streaming paid to songwriters, the elimination of the combination of profits attributable to infringement, statutory damages and attorneys’ fees would essentially eliminate any copyright infringement case as it would make the filing of any such action cost prohibitive, and ensure that any plaintiff would spend more pursuing the action then their recovery would be. In addition, with the removal of these remedies, it cleared the last hurdle for Spotify to go public, thereby reaping its equity owner’s tens of billions of dollars. 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.
According to the Verge, Eminem publicist Dennis Dennehy stated that the rapper is not a party to the suit, nor was he aware of its filing. Eight Mile owns the earlier parts of Eminem’s catalog, Dennehy told the site, and the rapper and his team “just as surprised as anyone else by this news.”
Eight Mile is seeking substantial profits from Spotify, but if the plaintiff is unable to demonstrate how the streaming service “benefited from failing to secure licenses,” they alternately seek $150,000 for each of the 243 works for a total of $36.45 million, according to the Reporter. The site added that the plaintiffs are also seeking a judicial order stating Spotify does not qualify from immunity under the reform law and that the provision providing that immunity are unconstitutional.
Spotify settled in a previous copyright violation suit between it and Wixen, which represented artists including Tom Petty, Neil Young, and The Doors that it claimed had their work streamed by Spotify without obtaining licenses. That suit was for $1.6 billion, though the ultimate sum paid out was undisclosed.