The contract dispute trial involving Eminem’s music publisher and Apple Inc. is under way in federal court in Detroit.
No sign of Slim Shady though, and he is not expected to testify or make any appearance. He is not part of the lawsuit.
Eight Mile Style contends that Apple earned $2.58 million from iTunes downloads of various Eminem songs. This morning, Eight Mile attorney Richard Busch said during his opening statement Eminem’s contract with record company Aftermath Records did not give the company right to make his songs available for download on Apple’s popular iTunes service.
Eight Mile Style is claiming copyright infringement, alleging Apple did not have a license to reproduce and sell 93 songs at issue.
Aftermath Records, founded by rapper and producer Dr. Dre, is also a defendant in the case. The lawsuit claims Aftermath and Apple ignored Eight Mile’s refusal to sell the songs in downloaded digital format
U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor is presiding over the trial without a jury, which was agreed to by both sides.
Apple attorney Glenn Pomerantz countered that Eight Mile Style made money off the download purchases. He said the Eight Mile made 9 cents off each song that customers pay to download an Eminem song from iTunes, which opened in 2003.
“They want you to force Apple to give over Apple’s profits,” he told the judge.
The trial is expected to last up to seven days.
Eminem, who grew up in metro Detroit, is the best-selling artist of this decade, having sold just less than 32 million, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Ben Sidbury, a copyright attorney from the national Alston & Bird law firm, said the case is being closely watched by the music industry and copyright experts.
“If the Court finds that Apple does not have a license to distribute the songs, the Court could order Apple to cease from making the songs available through iTunes and to pay damages for the unlawful use of the songs,” Sidbury said, adding a verdict in favor of Eight Mile “would likely cause Apple and other online distributors of music to re-think their protocols for obtaining permission to make the music available online. A broader license could result in higher royalty rates, which in turn may increase the music download costs for consumers.”
Joel Martin, manager of Eight Mile Style, was the first witness called today.
He testified that his company only once allowed Aftermath to license a song to be made available for download. That song, “Lose Yourself” was only available earlier this decade under a limited license, for a period of time that has since expired.
“The Internet was the Wild West out there,” Martin said, adding iTunes was not even in existence at the time. “We did agree to negotiate with the record company for that song.”