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Music streaming giant sued even in wake of protective law

It has been termed “a major copyright lawsuit that challenges the underpinning of the landmark Music Modernization Act.”

The legal complaint filed in a federal court on August 21 by music publisher Eight Mile Style against the audio streaming company Spotify certainly seems to qualify as such.

For starters, the plaintiff co-owns the publishing rights for songs recorded by legendary rapper and hip-hop artist Eminem. Reportedly, more than 32 million listeners access Eminem’s songs monthly via the Spotify platform. (Eminem is not a party to the litigation.)

Eight Mile Style claims that Spotify is unlawfully benefiting by streaming the music, alleging that the company has not duly licensed the songs or paid the requisite royalties owed the plaintiff for the privilege.

The case is being closely watched for several reasons. For starters, the litigation is an open challenge to the recently enacted Music Modernization Act, which transfers licensing duties from streaming companies to a newly formed licensing entity. A key feature of the MMA erects a formidably high hurdle challenging copyright holders who did not bring legal claims to court prior to the end of 2017.

Eight Mile Style’s lawsuit obviously missed the deadline, but the plaintiff says that its litigation should not be dismissed on that account. Indeed, the company contends that a statutory cutoff date is unconstitutional for its violation of due process and parties’ property rights in certain instances.

Eight Mile Style further contends that the protective provision for streaming companies applies only to so-called “unmatched songs,” i.e., those marked by the inability to find a copyright owner. The plaintiff states that Spotify was well aware of its status as Eminem’s publisher.

Eight Mile Style also alleges that, Spotify should be found liable for damages even if the MMA is deemed as applying to matched songs, given that it did not make reasonable efforts to pay royalties for Eminem downloads.

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