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Def Jam game maker says EMI lawsuit may put him out of business

By | Published on Wednesday 16 May 2012

Def Jam Rapstar

While MP3 resale service Redigi insists it has the resources required to fight EMI in court after the major sued the digital start-up claiming its business model infringes copyright, another company facing litigation from the record company reckons EMI’s legal action could push it out of business.

As previously reported, EMI is suing gaming companies 4mm Games and Terminal Reality over the ‘Def Jam Rapstar’ game, which was basically rap karaoke. The major claims that some of the tracks that featured in the game included samples owned by either the EMI record or publishing companies, and that the gaming firms failed to secure licenses to use said samples in the context of the gaming platform. It is suing for $8 million.

The litigation is all the more devastating for 4mm Games because, despite some positive reviews and the power of the Def Jam brand, the ‘Rapstar’ game was not a commercial success. In an interview with Games Industry, the firm’s co-founder Jamie King suggests various reasons why the game failed, mainly that the companies involved in the project didn’t have the resources to make a gaming product of this scale succeed, and admitted that the EMI litigation now has to potential to kill his company.

King: “We have not got any new funding and obviously we need to resolve everything with ‘Rapstar’. And we’ve also got to eat. I get very annoyed at times, I would like there to be a way out of it but I don’t know if that’s going to happen”. He added that most of the former 4mm team are now working on new projects elsewhere, and that he himself is mainly working for a marketing agency.

Of course the Def Jam brand is owned by Universal Music, although the major doesn’t seem to have been actively involved in the marketing or distribution of the game itself, and was not named as a defendant in EMI’s lawsuit. Though given there’s a very high chance Universal will own EMI by the end of the year, perhaps there’s hope for King to reach some kind of amicable deal via the Def Jam connection, if he can hold off until Universal’s big EMI takeover is complete.

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