Eminem vs. iTunes trial begins

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Eminem vs. iTunes trial begins

Thu Sep 24, 2009 @ 01:47PM PST

By Eriq Gardner


Today in a Michigan federal court, a jury heard opening statements in a case involving Eminem's attempt to lose himself from iTunes.

The rapper's publishing company, Eight Mile Style, claims that Apple doesn't have rights to sell his songs on iTunes.

Apple has a deal with Eminem's record label, Aftermath Records, which it claims gives it the authority to sell 93 songs. But Eight Mile disagrees that the contract is enough.

As we discussed in a case involving the Allman Brothers against UMG, there's a building controversy over whether online sales in arenas like iTunes constitute "distribution" or "licensing" — whether consumers are buying something similar to a CD or whether they are purchasing a licensed composition.

"The publisher owns these compositions, not Aftermath," says Eight Mile lawyer Richard Busch. "If Eight Mile had a direct licensing relationship with Apple, this kind of nonsense would not happen."

Apple lawyer Glenn Pomerantz has a different take, saying it's "common sense" that Aftermath has the ability to license rights to both CDs and digital downloads.

There's an interesting back story to this lawsuit. When Eight Mile filed its original complaint in the case, the company alleged that Apple ran a national advertising campaign for iTunes using Eminem's song, "Lose Yourself," over the rapper's objection. 

In fact, Eight Mile claimed that Apple's Steve Jobs personally called the plaintiffs, asking them to "rethink" their position. Eminem refused, Apple ran the commercial anyway, and now Eminem's publisher is in court pushing an issue that could potentially reshape the rights Apple would need to sell any song on iTunes. Obviously, Eight Mile won't be the only publishing company to go after Apple if it wins here.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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