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EA sued by EMI over music samples

EA Trax hiccough lands Redwood Shores based publisher in court.

Record label EMI has filed a lawsuit against leading publisher Electronic Arts, claiming that the company used its music without permission in a number of recent EA Sports branded videogames.

Although the lawsuit is embarrassing for EA, which last year established the EA Trax brand to provide licensed music from major artists for a wide range of its games and has used this as a key selling point on several titles, closer examination of the actual lawsuit reveals it to be something of a storm in a teacup.

The three titles named in the lawsuit as using music without permission are Madden NFL 2004, MVP Baseball 2004, and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004, and according to the filing, the issue relates to the use of the music before a contract with EMI (which is presumably now in place) was negotiated.

In fact, the dispute isn't even about a full track - an EA spokesperson confirmed that EMI's problem is not with the use of licensed tracks from their label, but rather with the use of a sample from one of their tracks in another track.

This is a problem often faced by companies working with modern music - where hip-hop and other "urban" styles increasingly use samples from other works in the creation of new tracks. EA has a legal team devoted to ensuring that all the music used in its games is fully licensed, including samples, but one slip-up is enough to bring down the wrath of a giant company such as EMI.

Although it seems likely that EA will have to pay damages to EMI for the use of the sample, it's unlikely that this lawsuit will affect the use of music in EA titles going forward.

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