Preliminary Schedule Set in Eminem Publisher’s Unpaid-Royalties Lawsuit Against Spotify

Eminem Michigan
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Eminem Michigan
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Eminem. Photo Credit: EJ Hersom / CC by 2.0

Back in August of 2019, Eminem publisher Eight Mile Style levied a massive copyright infringement lawsuit against Spotify. Now, Digital Music News has obtained an exclusive copy of a new legal filing from the high-profile courtroom confrontation, which is showing few signs of slowing down.

To recap, the multifaceted legal showdown centers on Spotify’s alleged infringement of 243 Eminem compositions – and, in turn, the Stockholm-based platform’s alleged failure to pay royalties on billions of user plays. Eight Mile Style is seeking $150,000 for each of these songs (a total of $36.45 million) as well as “advertising revenue and the value of the equity interest Eight Mile was deprived of by virtue of the infringement.”

Spotify promptly pushed back against the claims, emphasizing that it had been “licensed by Eight Mile’s agent, Kobalt” to offer the 243 Eminem tracks in question to its users. And in June of 2020, while maintaining that “the underlying infringement claim by Eight Mile lacks merit,” Spotify’s legal team named Kobalt Music Publishing in a third-party complaint based upon the licensing that it purportedly provided for the songs.

Finally, July of 2020 saw Eight Mile Style name the Harry Fox Agency (HFA) as an additional defendant. Alleging that Spotify and HFA had coordinated in a “fraudulent scheme” to hide the streaming platform’s alleged “failure to acquire timely compulsory mechanical licenses,” the plaintiffs bluntly relayed: “Spotify did not have any mechanical licenses, direct, affiliate, implied, or compulsory, to reproduce or distribute the Eight Mile Compositions.”

The aforementioned case-management legal filing, dated February 1st, 2021, reveals that the lawsuit is very much alive. Towards the 21-page-long document’s start, the plaintiffs double down on their allegations against the Harry Fox Agency, stating: “HFA sent out knowingly fraudulent ‘royalty statements,’ which HFA knew were woefully incomplete and inaccurate, in order to lead Eight Mile into believing that the Eight Mile Compositions were licensed when HFA knew that they were not.”

The Eminem publisher also outlined Spotify’s specific role in the alleged scheme: “The Eight Mile Compositions were streamed on Spotify billions of times. Spotify, however, has not accounted to Eight Mile for these streams and only submitted random payments, which only purport to account for a fraction of the actual streams on some of the Eight Mile Compositions.”

Additionally, acknowledging that it “expects” Spotify to rely on the liability-protection provision in the Music Modernization Act, Eight Mile states that “Spotify has not met the requirements of the MMA to enjoy that limitation of liability. (The Harry Fox Agency “is not entitled to any MMA protection for the same reasons that Spotify is not entitled to such protection.”)

And Spotify, in its response, emphasizes that Eight Mile accepted royalty payments for the allegedly infringed compositions “for almost a decade leading up to this lawsuit.” (Eight Mile writes that it would have been “virtually impossible” to pinpoint Spotify’s compensation, as Kobalt allegedly sent a single payment, “comingled with all payments for various parties,” per quarter.)

Finally, the Harry Fox Agency claims that it “is not a proper party to this action and intends to move to dismiss the Amended Complaint on jurisdictional, improper venue, and substantive legal grounds.” And Kobalt – which sold its AWAL and Neighboring Rights divisions to Sony Music today – says that HFA had known “since at least August 2013” that it (Kobalt) “was not the licensor of the Compositions,” but was rather “merely a collecting agent for Bridgeport,” a Michigan-based publishing company.

Timetable-wise, the court indicates of the convoluted case that “the parties shall substantially complete the production of documents relating to liability by March 30, 2021,” with “all written discovery and depositions of all fact witnesses relating to liability” set to wrap by September 28th of the same year. These parties must disclose their expert witnesses by July 7th, and the involved entities expect the trial to last 10 days.

More as this develops.