Eminem publisher takes Apple to court over rights
September 25, 2009
" A lawyer for Apple Inc has defended its use of Eminem's songs on iTunes as a trial opened in a dispute with the rapper's publisher over who had the right to offer digital downloads of the music.
Eight Mile Style and an affiliated company, Martin Affiliated, say their contract with Aftermath Records, which controls the recordings, did not entitle it to strike a deal with Apple to sell 93 songs over iTunes.
The case involves millions of dollars and the creative rights behind the hip-hop star. But the issue for a Detroit judge in the rapper's hometown is narrow: what do contracts between Eight Mile and Aftermath say about the ability to peddle songs beyond traditional compact discs?
In his opening statement, Apple lawyer Glenn Pomerantz says it's a case of "common sense".
"Nowhere does it say only compact discs. Nowhere does it say ... not digital downloads," he told US District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor.
Record companies such as Aftermath have rights to use the recordings and the compositions - "otherwise they couldn't sell records", Pomerantz said.
Apple pays Aftermath US70 cents (81 cents) for each iTunes download, and Eight Mile gets US9.1 cents of that share as the music publisher, he said.
Despite the legal dispute, Eight Mile cashed royalty cheques and hasn't asked Apple to stop selling Eminem's songs, Pomerantz said.
"They've been paid a lot of money. We don't begrudge them that," he said. "But they're not entitled to that money and Apple's profits."
Eight Mile's lawyers claim Apple has wrongfully gained $US2.5 million through iTunes downloads, including $US466,915 from Eminem's biggest hit, Lose Yourself. They say Aftermath has collected $US4 million off his songs on iTunes.
Eight Mile lawyer Richard Busch said the publisher has a history of making legal distinctions between digital downloads and other ways to distribute Eminem's music. He referred to an agreement with Universal Music Group to offer Lose Yourself as a download before iTunes was created.
"The publisher owns these compositions, not Aftermath. ... If Eight Mile had a direct licensing relationship with Apple, this kind of nonsense would not happen," Busch said.
Pomerantz said Apple doesn't make that kind of deal.
Eminem, whose real name is Marshall Bruce Mathers III, was not in court. He is not a plaintiff in the lawsuit and is not listed as a trial witness.
"He's well aware of what's going on," said Mark Bass, a songwriter and producer who with his brother, Jeff, is credited with launching Eminem's career. "It's important to all songwriters across the board." "
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