New publisher lawsuit against Spotify also challenges the Music Modernization Act

Spotify has seen its share of lawsuits, and the latest is targeting more than just the streaming service. Eight Mile Style, the publisher representing Eminem and others, has alleged that Spotify infringed on copyrights related to about 250 of the rapper’s songs.

The suit also targets the recently passed Music Modernization Act. It argues that the streamer hasn’t complied with the new mechanical licensing rules and questions whether the MMA is constitutional.

“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,” the complaint states. “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.”

The suit pushes for several results. First, it seeks Spotify profits, or statutory damages if it cannot prove Spotify’s benefit from not securing licenses. Second, it seeks a declaration that Spotify does not quality for the MMA’s provision limiting damages. Finally, it challenges that the MMA’s retroactive elimination of damages for copyright infringement is unconstitutional.

The Music Modernization Act passed last year with widespread support from a range of music industry players. The NMPA and its partners have also secured the bid to form the Music Licensing Collective under the new law’s provisions. The challenge now posed by a publisher indicates that there may yet be division about the value of the legal changes for mechanical licensing and whether it takes the best approach to songwriter rights in the streaming economy.

Anna Washenko