Spotify sued by Eminem’s publisher over billions of unpaid streams

The suit claims Spotify intentionally ripped off Eminem by pretending to have the rights to stream the songs under various generic licenses. (AFP pic)

NEW YORK: Eminem’s music publisher sued Spotify USA Inc for copyright infringement for allegedly streaming hundreds of the American rapper’s songs billions of times without a license.

Eight Mile Style LLC filed the suit Wednesday in federal court in Nashville, Tennessee, a music mecca in the US.

It claims Spotify intentionally ripped off the artist, whose legal name is Marshall Mathers, by pretending to have the rights to stream the songs under various generic licenses.

“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 Ferndale, Michigan-based publisher said.

Spotify also claimed it didn’t know who held the copyright to Eminem’s hit song “Lose Yourself” – winner of the Best Original Song at the 2003 Academy Awards – which is described in the lawsuit as “one of the most famous and popular songs in the world.”

Spotify “certainly knew (and had the easy means to know) that Eight Mile is the copyright owner of ‘Lose Yourself,’” the publisher said. “With commercially reasonable efforts, that information was certainly available to them.”

At times, Spotify claimed to have a so-called compulsory license, which allows for songs to be used if a fee, set by the US Copyright Office, is paid, according to the lawsuit.

The suit relates to 243 songs that Eight Mile co-owns and administers. Eight Mile claims Spotify had about 280 billion unpaid music streams from 2011, resulting in unpaid royalties of as much as US$120 million.

Spotify’s press office didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment on the lawsuit.

Eight Mile says major record labels own a combined 16% of Spotify, and that its successful initial public offering allows the labels “to potentially generate billions of dollars, none of which they need to share with the copyright creators, performing artists, or songwriters.”

Spotify has built a business, currently valued at US$26 billion, “with no assets other than the recordings of songs by songwriters like Eminem made available to stream on demand to consumers,” Eight Mile said. Spotify shares fell 1.6% to US$145.76 on Wednesday.

The arrangement with the record labels gave them a reason to ignore Spotify’s practice of streaming without a license, according to the lawsuit.

The labels “had no incentive to pursue or truly hold Spotify accountable for its actions,” the Eight Mile said.

The case is Eight Mile Style LLC v Spotify USA Inc, 19-cv-00736, US District Court, Middle District of Tennessee (Nashville).