Spotify’s fight with independent music publisher Bluewater Music Services Corporation over copyright infringement is set to continue after a Tennessee court rejected the streaming giant’s request to toss the complaint. The lawsuit, which reportedly carries potential damages up to $321 million, first began last July and involves Bluewater citing more than 2,300 examples they believe to be deliberate copyright infringement.
The original suit explains why Bluewater is seeking such high restitution, fearing that too gentle of a punishment will not incentivize major companies like Spotify to rethink their approach to copyrights.
“In light of the willful actions of Spotify, including willful blindness, anything less than the maximum of $150,000 statutory damage award for each of the Infringed Works involved herein would encourage infringement, amount to a slap on the wrist, and reward a multi-billion dollar company, about to go public, that rules the streaming market through a pattern of willful infringement on a staggering scale,” the document read.
Spotify went public this April, and the stock was performing well as of late August.
In the motion to dismiss, Spotify alleged that Bluewater did not have “ownership interest” over much of the music that was at the heart of the suit and that they “[alleged] no ownership interest in any works.” The streaming company also pegged the number of songs in question as 1,372, far fewer than Bluewater claimed, and said that there were 23 works involved on which Bluewater had pending copyrights. The publisher rejected these claims, saying that they did possess exclusive rights, a statement supported by the court.
Bluewater isn’t the only publishing company to lob a lawsuit at Spotify. Wixen Music Publishing sued them for $1.6 billion in January, citing well-known songs by Tom Petty, The Doors and other prominent artists. In May 2017, they paid a $43.3 million settlement to a group of songwriters who had filed a similar complaint.
Beyond copyright infringement issues, a lawsuit was filed last month against the company by a former sales exec who alleged equal-pay violations and gender discrimination.
As Billboard previously noted, the ruling in this case could have colossal ramifications for the entire music industry, particularly if a ruling is handed down that the streaming service does not need to pay mechanical royalties.