Jury Sides With Universal In Eminem Lawsuit
March 9, 2009 at 5:13 AM (PT)
A federal jury in LOS ANGELES ruled FRIDAY that EMINEM's music royalties don't change just because a song has been sold online, reports THE LOS ANGELES TIMES. The decision prevents, at least for now, an upending of the music industry that could have greatly changed the financial relationship between record labels and artists, in which labels have long commanded most of the proceeds from album sales.
The DETROIT music producers who were involved in the rapper's early works, including his 1999 GRAMMY-winning album, "The SLIM SHADY LP," sued UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP's INTERSCOPE RECORDS, accusing the music label of shortchanging them on royalty payments for music downloads and cellphone ring tones.
MARK and JEFF BASS, brothers who own F.B.T. PRODUCTIONS, said their contract entitled them to 50% of the proceeds for songs sold through online stores including APPLE's iTUNES or by cellphone operators. They argued that the songs UNIVERSAL provided to online and mobile services amounted to music "masters," from which infinite digital copies could be produced. As such, F.B.T. said it was entitled to a higher royalty rate than the 12% they would otherwise receive on the sale of a song or music CD.
The jury sided with the music company's interpretation that a song purchased online is no different from one bought in a store.
"It's saying that the digital download is the modern version of a record sale," said music attorney FRED DAVIS, founder of law firm DAVIS, SHAPIRO, LEWIT, MONTONE & HAYES in NEW YORK, who was not involved in the lawsuit. "And the economics to the artist are the same for a digital download as they were for the sale of a single, back in the glory years."
RICHARD S. BUSCH, an attorney representing the BASSES, said his clients were considering their legal options. "We are very surprised by the jury's verdict," BUSCH said. "We don't understand it, and the fight's not over."
A UNIVERSAL MUSIC spokesman hailed the decision, saying, "We are pleased with the jury's verdict."
The jury did award F.B.T. $159,000 owed from underpaid royalties.