Eminem Publisher Suing Apple When It Should Be Suing Universal Music

from the wrong-target dept

We’ve had plenty of folks submitting to us the story that Eminem’s publisher is suing Apple over Eminem songs available on iTunes. It’s getting some play around the tech news and tech blog world, but everyone seems to be missing the key point. Eminem’s publisher is suing the wrong party. No one denies that Universal Music Group, who distributes Eminem’s music, gave Apple permission to sell his songs on iTunes. What’s in dispute is if Universal had that right in the first place. In other words, it’s a contractual issue between Eminem’s publisher, Eight Mile Style, and Universal. Suing Apple seems to just be for the publicity of it. However, what this does demonstrate is how ridiculous it is whenever anyone presents the RIAA’s views as “the music industry’s views.” The RIAA represents the labels, and not the musicians and not the music publishers in many cases — all of whom have different goals. And, clearly, the label often does things that the other components of the music industry just don’t like. However, it’s a bit sad that Eminem’s publisher has decided to sue Apple rather than the publisher with whom it has a distribution contract. In fact, the complaint is nearly identical to one that a bunch of bands filed last year. It’s just that those bands (such as the Allman Brothers and Cheap Trick) had their lawyers actually sue the record label (in that case, Sony Music), rather than Apple.

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Companies: apple, universal

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Comments on “Eminem Publisher Suing Apple When It Should Be Suing Universal Music”

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22 Comments
Sick of This says:

RIAA

Okay..thats it. I agree the RIAA is a joke peice of crap. I’ve been an avid Techdirt geek for a long time. But seriously…I’m sick of Techdirt focusing all it’s articles on RIAA. I will get my geek news from another source who actually has some talented journalists who can figure out something ELSE to write about than the STUPID RIAA!!!!

Mike (profile) says:

Re: RIAA

I’ve been an avid Techdirt geek for a long time. But seriously…I’m sick of Techdirt focusing all it’s articles on RIAA. I will get my geek news from another source who actually has some talented journalists who can figure out something ELSE to write about than the STUPID RIAA!!!!

I’m sorry you feel that way, though I disagree that we don’t write about anything else. There are 20 stories on the front page as I type this. 4 of them involve the recording industry, meaning that 16 of them have nothing to do with the recording industry at all, so I’m not sure I agree that we focus all of our articles on the RIAA.

At the same time, the discussion about what’s going on in the industry is an important one, and the points we try to make highlight different aspects of what’s going on in a very relevant segment of the industry.

Given the number of folks who email us or submit stories about such activities by the RIAA (many of which we don’t post), plus the number of comments we tend to get on such stories, it seems that much of our audience wants them.

Again, I apologize if you disagree, but I wish you’d take another look and realize we really do write about many other subjects — and even when we write about the RIAA, each story is quite unique.

Ikey Benney, On RIAA complaint (user link) says:

Re: Re: RIAA

Hello Mike:

I believe you handled that complaint about RIAA article very well and smoothly.

I enjoy all articles at Techdirt because the purpose is to learn about what you don’t know or to keep up with an on-going news item.

Techdirt.com is among the top best tech blog and website.

Since I discovered Techdirt, I have already forgotten Techcrunch and Slashdot and others.

Keep up the good work.

Ikey Benney

E.T.Cook says:

Re: Re: RIAA

Actually, I brushed off the claim that all of Techdirt’s material was focused on the recording industry, until you cited your own numbers that as of this moment (a down period for RIAA news) 25% of your stories use it as a topic?

Ummm…yuck…

Whether or not you have other news stories available or not isn’t the point…in the same manner that people were sick of hearing about Anna Nicole, regardless of whether or not there were other stories on, people are sick of hearing about the RIAA. It just seems like you guys have a personal agenda at this point.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: RIAA

Actually, I brushed off the claim that all of Techdirt’s material was focused on the recording industry, until you cited your own numbers that as of this moment (a down period for RIAA news) 25% of your stories use it as a topic?

Not to nitpick, but it was 20%, not 25% (4 out of 20). Secondly, why do you say this is a “down period”? That’s simply not true.

Whether or not you have other news stories available or not isn’t the point…in the same manner that people were sick of hearing about Anna Nicole, regardless of whether or not there were other stories on, people are sick of hearing about the RIAA.

Again, you claim to be, but others clearly are not and continually ask us to post these stories. Secondly, I stand by the point I made (which you ignore) that these stories are not just “RIAA” stories, but important stories having to do with attempts to prevent innovation. Each one is quite different and important — otherwise, we would not be writing about them. If we were writing the same story over and over again, you’d have a point. But we’re not.

For example, this very story is less focused on the RIAA aspect, but the fact that most of the coverage of this particular suit is missing the point — that the lawsuit is mistargeted.

. It just seems like you guys have a personal agenda at this point.

I never understand this claim. What would that “agenda” be? We DO have an agenda at Techdirt: to write about whatever we have an opinion on as it relates to the business of innovation. That’s really it. I also find it amusing that people seem to think we have it in for the RIAA. The opposite is true. We’re writing about what the RIAA should do to survive. We’re trying to help them — and clearly, they need the help.

E.T.Cook (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 RIAA

Holy mackerel, are you sure you aren’t a politician? You are trying to HELP the RIAA…that is a bit of spin don’t you think? You are trying to help in the same way moveon.org is trying to help George Bush I suppose.

As stated prior, I never had that consideration of techdirt being a repository for all things copyright and music industry until you stated your own numbers. I apologize for the 25% number, I saw 4 and 16, and ran with it. 😉 That just seems like an awfully large number of stories saturating your front page dedicated to that topic in particular.

I am not ignoring any of your points, but we can argue semantics all day. You call them stories on preventing innovation, someone else calls them RIAA stories…obviously some aren’t making the distinction given the fact that you feel its necessary to defend your stance. The fact that you have given my argument credence at all speaks to that end.

Look Mike, I am not going anywhere, you are still on my RSS feed. Just don’t let yourself be caught up in hubris, telling your readership what they are missing, and what they aren’t distinguishing…when you have to start explaining yourself a lot…you might want to do some reflection.

jLl says:

Re: Re: Re:3 RIAA

Here’s it put simply…

The next time you want to speak your thoughts, that you think are that of the consensus (cause, of course, everyone has to think the same as you), keep your thoughts to yourself. All you managed to do was show your arrogance and self-righteousness.

And, don’t make empty threats. If you’re going to stop reading Techdirt, then stop reading it. But, don’t throw a bitch fit and then try saving face by admitting that you’re actually sticking around.

Pull your head out of your ass and keep quiet until you have something real and constructive to say.

Ikey Benney, On Eminem Lawsuit against Apple Inc. (user link) says:

Eminem Publisher Suing Apple

Hello:
Your commentary on this lawsuit hit the nail on the head.
It is clear that Eminem has sued the wrong party.
If Apple Inc. had a written and legal permission to distribute the music from Eminem’s publisher, then logically, Apple is not guilty for any offense or infringement.
Ikey Benney

E.T.Cook (user link) says:

Also

The assertion that Apple is indemnified is pure nonsense. I am not claiming that the case has any merit, or teeth…but if Apple was acting in concert, or complacent in wrongful actions, than there might be a case. Also, if it can be proven that Apple didn’t perform its due diligence in making sure everything was kosher, than they could be charged with negligence.

I surmise that they are trying to utilize this lawsuit to set a precedent…one that could be very lucrative for the recording industry and painful for Apple, and all online music merchants.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Also

The assertion that Apple is indemnified is pure nonsense

I never said they were indemnified. I just said that the publisher was going after the wrong party. They’re suing Apple rather than the company they signed the contract with. Whether or not they CAN go after Apple is a different point, but not the one I’m discussing.

I surmise that they are trying to utilize this lawsuit to set a precedent…one that could be very lucrative for the recording industry and painful for Apple, and all online music merchants.

It doesn’t require surmising. The article SAYS exactly that. However, that doesn’t mean it’s right. The whole point we were making is that it’s not right. It’s targeting a third party who is not responsible while making a big stink to make everyone think they are responsible, hoping to get some judge to set a bad precedent.

E.T.Cook (user link) says:

Re: Re: Also

You just admitted that Apple wasn’t indemnified, hence the possibility exists they carry some burden of liability. Your assertion that they are not responsible I think in the end might be misguided…as stated prior, if they didn’t perform their due diligence, and were complacent in the wrongful act, then they are held liable…if in fact some wrong was committed. Acting on good faith alone does not indemnify you of possible wrongdoing, which is what you are trying to claim. Since Universal told them it was ok, its ok according to the law…that assumption is fallacious, and irresponsible. Good faith, and due diligence are two different burdens, and the latter is what needs to be proven.

As stated prior, I am not claiming this lawsuit has any merit, but the absolute assertion that Apple has no part in their claim is nonsense. On another note, I heard somewhere that they were going after Universal as well…I don’t know how much truth there is to that.

DBL says:

If you are right, and this is a matter solely between Eight Mile Style and Universal, then you’d better call up Apple and let them know, because they don’t seem to have seen it that way themselves. From the BBC:

“Apple had repeatedly asked Eight Mile Style for permission to use its songs, but the requests had been turned down.”

Why would Apple even make this request were they not aware that downloading might have some special licensing status and that Universal might not have the rights they claimed they did? (If Universal even ever did claim those rights, and if they didn’t then this would be a matter SOLELY between Eight Mile and Apple and Universal would the irrelevant party, wouldn’t they? And since you don’t actually know whether or not Universal made this claim for the songs in question, for all you know the exact reverse of your opinion could be the truth.)

This simple act of admission by Apple shows clearly that the licensing to these songs is not as simple as most of the commentators are saying, and pretty much invalidates most of the roughly cut opinions out there on this right now (including yours I’m afraid).

puk says:

Incorrect

Put quite simply, this story is wrong. If all of Eminem’s publisher’s allegations are true, then they are right to sue Apple (though they could probably sue Universal as well, but not as a breach of contract). For the purposes of the this post I’m assuming that their factual allegations are true. I have no opinion on whether they really are, not having seen the contract. I’m also going to refer to the suit as Eminem’s rather than his publisher’s, for simplicity.

Eminem has a contract with Universal which gives them certain rights. Online sales and the right to authorize such sales are not among them. So unless that contract says, “you cannot authorize online sales,” Universal has not breached the contract.

Meanwhile, if Apple is selling Eminem’s music online, they are violating his copyright, because they do not have his legal permission to do so. The fact that someone without those rights gave them to Apple is irrelevant to whether Apple is violating copyright law. A belief that you are not infringing may reduce damages (as an “innocent infringer”), but does not shield you from liability altogether. Apple does not have the rights, and is selling the music.

Thus, Apple is the right party to sue. With regard to selling music online, Apple is selling Eminem’s music without permission, and can be sued. If Eminem chose to sue Universal, it would have to be on some tort theory rather than a breach of contract theory, since their activities were outside the scope of the contract. Note that in all likelihood, if Universal represented to Apple that they had the rights to authorize online sales, then Universal will have to indemnify Apple for any damages they have to pay to Eminem anyway. That, however, is between Apple and Universal, not Eminem and Universal.

To use an oversimplified analogy: If you sell my house to Jim without permission, I can sue you or Jim for various torts. Whether or not I have a contract with you to sell my car is totally irrelevant.

And yes, IAAL, and no, this is not legal advice.

-puk

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