by Mike Masnick
Mon, Mar 9th 2009 6:21am
A few years back, a few bands, including Cheap Trick and the Allman Brothers sued their record labels claiming their cut of iTunes sales wasn't right. It was basically a contractual suit. Since there are a million and one different licenses to deal with, the record labels were treating digital sales the same way they treated CD sales -- of which the artists get a tiny tiny percentage. However, these bands noted that it seemed like digital sales was much more similar to a deal where they were licensing their music for use in another product -- such as a commercial or a movie. In those deals, the bands get a much bigger cut. A little while later, Eminem filed a similar lawsuit -- though somehow (great lawyers there...) thought that it was all Apple's fault and sued Apple. It looks like that got sorted out eventually, and Eminem refocused the lawsuit on Universal Music. And... didn't get very far. Last week a jury found that Universal Music was right: a digital sale is just like a physical sale, and thus the significantly lower royalty rate applies. You can bet pretty much every major record label just breathed a huge sigh of relief (even though an appeal is likely), because a ruling in the other direction would take away a hefty chunk of margin from their digital sales.
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