By Eriq Gardner
We noticed an interesting story
posted on The Wrap website Monday about Eminem going to trial against Universal Music Group in a case that could help decide how much royalties are due to music artists from sales on iTunes and other third-party digital distributors.
An interesting issue, but the website might have mixed up the true identity of the plaintiffs involved.
In the complaint
, the plaintiff is listed as F.B.T. Productions, which TheWrap indicated to be "the rapper's publishing company."
However, is Eminem really a party to this dispute?
Since the story posted, UMG's publicity machine has been pointing out that F.B.T. Productions is actually a company owned by Marky and Jeff Bass, two brothers who are credited with some production on Eminem's early works. Here's an old story
about the relationship between Eminem and the Bass Brothers.
TheWrap is correct in illustrating the potential importance of this case — helping to define whether downloads fall under the category of "licensing agreements," covering physical release of CDs and vinyl records, or under the category of "distribution arrangements," which have lower royalty rates. The case also questions whether record companies like UMG actually have the right to distribute music digitally. (This suit is similar to a class action filed by the Allman Brothers Band and Cheap Trick against Sony BMG.)
UMG is arguing it has the rights to make distribution arrangements with digital vendors. Ironically, some at the company believe that FBT's real beef should be with Eminem—not UMG—although we assume that if the case has made it to trial, questions over standing have been resolved in FBT's favor.
"The claims made by FBT Productions are completely baseless as a matter of fact and meritless as a matter of law, and we look forward to presenting our side in court," says UMG spokesperson Peter Lofrumento.
UPDATE: The case didn't go very far. A Los Angeles federal jury ruled for UMG and said that royalties don't change just because a song is sold online.