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Spotify CEO Must Sit for Deposition in Eminem Copyright Case

April 1, 2022, 9:32 PM

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek will have to sit for a deposition in a copyright infringement case concerning whether the music streaming platform had the appropriate licenses to stream hundreds of songs by rapper Eminem.

A Tennessee federal court ruled Thursday that Eight Mile Style LLC, the publisher which owns the copyrights to Eminem’s songs, established that deposing Ek was relevant and proportional to the case, and wouldn’t cause and him unnecessary annoyance or burden.

The publisher sued Spotify USA Inc. in 2019 for intentionally infringing the copyrights to 243 Eminem songs, including the Oscar award-winning “Lose Yourself,” by pretending to have the necessary mechanical licenses to stream the songs.

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee wasn’t convinced by Spotify’s argument that Ek was irrelevant to the case because he wasn’t involved in the day-to-day operations of obtaining U.S. music licenses.

Eight Mile Style said it wants to ask Ek why Spotify didn’t make an effort to directly secure the appropriate mechanical licenses instead of outsourcing the issue to another party, Harry Fox Agency LLC, which is also a defendant in the case.

Magistrate Judge Jeffery S. Frensley said the court used a broad definition of relevance for the purpose of discovery. Eight Mile Style had enough reason to believe Ek’s testimony could be relevant to their argument that Spotify’s business model when expanding into the U.S. was to stream songs without licenses and “ask questions later,” the court said.

Spotify argued that other company executives were available to testify on the same issue, but Frensley found none of those individuals could be a “complete and appropriate substitute” for Ek because none of them were at the company when it expanded into the U.S.

The company’s argument that Eight Mile Style sought to depose Ek to “harrass and annoy” him also failed. Citing Eleventh Circuit precedent, Spotify argued it’s improper to depose high-level executives without first going to lower-level employees with more knowledge.

The court said Spotify’s entire argument amounted to Ek having a busy schedule.

“The Court credits Spotify’s assertion that he is very busy indeed,” Frensley said. “Yet, the issue of proper licensing relationships with the artists whose work comprises the entirety of Spotify’s business and its sole product is surely also a matter of importance to Spotify.”

King & Ballow and James Blumstein of Nashville, Tenn., represent Eight Mile Style.

Mayer Brown LLP; Latham & Watkins LLP; Neal & Harwell PLC; and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP represent Spotify.

The case is Eight Mile Style LLC v. Spotify USA Inc., M.D. Tenn., No. 3:19-cv-00736, 3/31/22.

To contact the reporter on this story: Isaiah Poritz in Washington at iporitz@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com