Nashville Judge Denies Spotify’s Request to Move Eminem Lawsuit to New York

A publisher with rights to some of the rapper's songs accuses Spotify of willful infringement to the tune of potentially billions of dollars in damages.

A Nashville Federal judge has denied Spotify’s request to move the copyright infringement case brought by Eight Mile Style, a publisher with rights to some of Eminem’s songs, to New York. Judge Aleta Trauger ruled April 2 that Spotify’s sufficient contacts within the state of Tennessee, such as their Nashville-based office and listeners in the state who have accessed Eminem’s songs, are sufficient to keep the case in the state.

“The court has no doubt that litigation this case in Spotify’s home district would be easier for Spotify,” wrote Trauger in her opinion. “The Middle District of Tennessee has an interest in ensuring that copyright rights are observed within its border. Although there may be some hardships related to litigating in this district rather than Spotify’s home district…those hardships are not so great as to make jurisdiction unreasonable.”

Eminem’s Publisher Eight Mile Style and Martin Affiliated, two Michigan-based companies that own and control a catalog of Eminem’s musical compositions, filed a lawsuit against Spotify in federal court in Nashville on Aug. 21, 2019, accusing the company of willful copyright infringement by reproducing “Lose Yourself” and about 250 of the rapper’s songs on its service to the tune of potentially billions of dollars in damages. The suit also targeted the Music Modernization Act, a federal law enacted last October that was intended to make life easier for tech companies and to get songwriters paid, for denying the Eminem-affiliated companies their due process property rights.

The initial complaint against Spotify filed by attorney Richard Busch, a Nashville attorney who won the “Blurred Lines” case for Marvin Gaye’s heirs, alleges that Spotify made Eminem’s songs available to their listeners without obtaining valid licenses.

On Sept 25, Spotify, a New York-based company incorporated in Delaware and wholly owned by a Swedish corporate parent, filed court papers seeking to have the case moved to New York. Spotify argued the case should be heard in the state because that is where its licensing personnel, as well as many senior executives and employee witnesses the company would expect to be involved in this litigation, are based.

While Spotify executive vp Anna Ludstrom admitted that the company has maintained a Nashville office since 2016, she said in court papers that none of the executives in that office are responsible for mechanical licensing on the platform. Spotify also did not dispute that there were listeners in Tennessee that accessed Eminem’s music on the streaming service.

Ultimately, Trauger ruled that transferring the case to New York would inconvenience Eminem’s publishers.

“Every instance of litigation … has to be based somewhere, and the plaintiffs’ selection of the Middle District of Tennessee is sufficiently appropriate to avoid transfer,” said the judge in her decision.

Busch tells Billboard he is pleased with the judge’s decision.

“Spotify basically argued that it could only be sued in New York for alleged copyright infringement throughout the United States,” he said. “The court rightfully and easily rejected that argument. We now look forward to litigating this case on the merits.”

Spotify has not responded to a request for comment.