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EMI sues Def Jam game maker

By | Published on Friday 30 March 2012

Def Jam Rapstar

EMI has filed a lawsuit against the makers of the Def Jam Rapstar video game, a rap-based take on the karaoke game, claiming various compositions and recordings owned by its subsidiaries are used on the game without permission.

It’s a complicated lawsuit, because EMI doesn’t seem to be claiming to own any of the disputed tracks that feature in the game outright, but to have stakes in either the publishing, or to own bits of songs sampled in the hip hop records that feature. Hip hop licensing is, of course, a tricky business, partly because of all the samples that need licensing for various different uses, and the fact that its common for many parties to be listed as songwriters.

The game’s makers 4mm Games and Terminal Reality are both named as defendants in the lawsuit, though interestingly Def Jam itself is not. It’s not clear which of the partners in the game was actually responsible for clearing all the music rights. Of course Def Jam is a Universal division, and – if regulators allow – will be part of the same company as the EMI labels by the end of the year.

It’s not the first lawsuit EMI has filed against a Universal affiliated hip hop label since the latter’s bid to acquire the former began, though its previously reported royalties squabble with Cash Money Records has now been resolved.