A federal judge says Spotify CEO Daniel Ek must sit for depositions in a copyright lawsuit over Eminem’s music, rejecting the streamer’s arguments that he’s not personally involved in “day-to-day” licensing operations or that he’s too busy to participate in the case.
Spotify claimed that Ek had little information to offer about the lawsuit and that Eight Mile Style was trying to drag him into a deposition simply to “harass and annoy” him. But U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffery S. Frensley ruled Thursday (March 31) that the executive would need to find the time.
“Undoubtedly Mr. Ek has a full schedule [and] the Court credits Spotify’s assertion that he is very busy indeed,” Judge Frensley wrote. “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, worthy of some of Mr. Ek’s time and attention.”
The ruling came in a copyright lawsuit filed by Eight Mile Style in 2019 that claimed Spotify had streamed Eminem’s music “billions of times” without obtaining the proper mechanical licenses. The 2018 passage of the Music Modernization Act was designed to fix that problem, but Eight Mile Style said the company had essentially ignored the law’s requirements and was still on the hook for infringement.
Ahead of Thursday’s ruling, Spotify had sought a so-called protective order that would have shielded Ek from facing a deposition. The company’s attorneys argued he was not “directly involved in Spotify’s day-to-day licensing practices, let alone its U.S. mechanical-licensing practices in particular.” And the streamer said a top-level executive should not be drawn into a court case without very good reason, because it imposes a heavy burden on someone who “leads a corporate entity with a global reach.”
But Judge Frensley didn’t buy it: “The Court is inclined to agree with plaintiffs that ‘Mr. Ek’s entire argument for burden is, essentially, that he is busy.’”
The judge did conceded some points. In order to “minimize the likely annoyance to Mr. Ek and the disruption of his schedule,” Judge Frenlsey said that Ek could be deposed for no more than 3 hours. And the hearing will take place remotely.
A trial is currently scheduled for September 2023. It’s unclear when Ek will be deposed.
Spotify did not respond to immediate request for comment.