UPDATE: On May 23rd, 2018, Spotify received court approval to settle the long-running lawsuit brought by Lowery, which was also later combined with another lawsuit from musician Melissa Ferrick. The music-streaming company came to a $112.55 million settlement that comes with a cash payment of $43.55 million. Spotify’s other copyright battles – such as a $1.6 billion dispute brought by Wixen Music Publishing, which represents the works of artists including Neil Young, Tom Petty and Janis Joplin – are still ongoing.
The streaming giant submitted two motions on February 12th, one asking a judge to dismiss the case due to lack of jurisdiction, the other requesting the case be barred from being treated as a class action.
In regards to the motion to dismiss, Spotify noted that Lowery lives in Georgia, but filed his initial suit last December in California, while Spotify is a Delaware corporation based in New York. They requested the judge move the case to New York if it is not dismissed on these grounds.
As for the class action component, Lowery positioned his suit so that it could encompass a wide swath of musicians who believed they had been similarly wronged by Spotify. Listing several of his own tunes, Lowery accused the streaming service of both failing to find and pay the composers and songwriters of tracks provided to its users; and knowingly reproducing and distributing copyrighted music without a proper license. Members of the class, the suit claimed, could be easily identified by searching Spotify’s own database files and records.
In their motion, however, Spotify called Lowery’s suit “a fatally flawed candidate for class treatment.” The company claimed there was “no way to determine who qualifies as a class member” because of the “thorny and often intractable” questions of identifying the owner of a song’s mechanical rights (i.e. the right to reproduce it), and determining if Spotify “distributed those compositions without license or authorization.”
The streaming service also argued that Lowery did not prove “that common issues predominate over individual ones,” or that a class action made more sense than individual adjudication in a copyright-based case. They argued each potential class member would have to be given their own “mini-trial” centered around the various ownership specifics of each song.
Mona Hanna, a partner in the law firm representing Lowery, Michelman & Robinson, LLP, told Pitchfork that Spotify’s motions were “a standard defense maneuver to try to avoid dealing with the merits of the complaint and trying to see if they can get a dismissal on procedural grounds.” She added: “We are very confident that this is just a delay tactic and we are going to get to the merits.”