Eminem sues Apple for copyright infringement

The rapper's music publisher says it never gave permission for his songs to be sold on iTunes.

Published August 1, 2007 11:00AM (EDT)

According to the Detroit News, Eminem's music publisher filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Apple on Monday, alleging that the company violated the rapper's copyrights by making his music available for sale on iTunes. In their complaint, Eight Mile Style and Martin Affiliated, Eminem's music publisher and copyright manager, say they have "demanded that Apple cease and desist its reproduction and distribution" of Eminem's music, but that "Apple has refused."

The suit stems from the complicated rights regime under which much of the recording industry operates. Often, two entities hold rights to any song you hear on the radio -- record labels hold rights to a song's recorded audio, while music publishers own the sheet music and lyrics. Apple normally receives permission to sell music from record labels, not music publishers. When Apple sells a song, it gives a cut of the money to the record label, which then transfers some money to the publisher.

In this case, Apple received permission from Universal, Eminem's label, to sell his music on iTunes. But Eight Mile Style, his publisher, says that it also has the right to approve such sales. And because Eight Mile Style never allowed Universal to transfer music-downloading rights to Apple, it says that Apple has no right to sell the rapper's music.

What's worrisome here is that such claims could spread. "You're going to see more of these suits," Owen Sloan, an attorney who represents Eight Mile Style, tells the Detroit News. A revolt by music publishers who see the gold in 3 billion downloads could leave both record labels and Apple in uncertain territory.

This is not the first time Eminem's publishers have brought in lawyers against Apple. In 2004, Eight Mile Style sued Apple for using the track "Lose Yourself" in an iPod commercial. The firm later went after other Internet companies that were selling Eminem ringtones. In each case, Universal had granted permission, but the publisher had not. The claims were settled out of court.

By Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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