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Eminem sues Apple - again

Most litigacious candy-coated chocolate ever?

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Eminem's music publisher has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Apple over iTunes downloads, alleging the company is violating copyrights by selling the rapper's song online.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in US District Court in Detroit by Ferndale-based Eight Mile Style and Eminem's copyright manager, Martin Affiliated. The complaint alleges that although Apple has inked a contract with Universal Music Group to sell Eminem's music on iTunes, Eight Mile Style and Martin Affiliated have not authorized the downloads.

"Eight Mile and Martin have demanded that Apple cease and desist its reproduction and distribution and Apple has refused," the complaint states.

The case highlights a scuffle in the music industry over the control of online distribution. While publishers hold music copyrights, record labels have traditionally received the lion's share of revenue from sales.

Recently there has been growing sentiment among publishers that music downloads should be classified as a licensing agreement rather than a sale. This would enable publishers to gain the final say on whether an artist's work can be distributed online and, of course, bring in more money. If the download is seen a licensing agreement, both the record label and music publisher receive an equal cut of the revenue. If it's classified as a sale, the publisher receives only a royalty fee — a much smaller portion.

The lawsuit is the second time Eight Mile Style has taken Apple to court. In 2004, the rapper sued Apple over using the song "Lose Yourself" in a TV spot for the iTunes music store. The lawsuit claimed Apple's agents tried to seek permission for the song, but had been rebuffed. The lawsuit was settled out of court in 2005.

Apple said today the iTunes store has sold over three billion songs, overtaking Amazon.com as the third-largest music retailer in the United States. The milestone comes just six months after iTunes surpassed the two- billion mark. ®

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