Rap CEO J Prince Sues Apple, BET, And Viacom For Defamation - InformationWeek

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12/14/2007
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Rap CEO J Prince Sues Apple, BET, And Viacom For Defamation

The suit charges that Apple made available over its iTunes download service an episode of American Gangster that falsely portrays two men as murderers.

The CEO of a popular rap record label and an employee have filed a defamation lawsuit against Apple, claiming that the computer maker made available over its iTunes download service an episode of American Gangster that falsely portrays them as murderers.

The suit also names as defendants Viacom and BET, which produced and aired the television show.

James Prince, who also goes by the name J Prince and who's head of Rap-A-Lot Records, and employee Thomas Randle claim that their pictures were shown on American Gangster promotional spots with the word "murderers" stamped over the photos. They further claim that an episode of the show that aired October 10 falsely linked them to a notorious Chicago street gang called The Gangster Disciples.

"Neither Mr. Prince nor Mr. Randall [sic] has ever been convicted of any felony offenses, let alone murder," an attorney for Prince and Randle states in court papers filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Houston.

After the show's original air date, Apple, BET, and Viacom "caused the show to be made available for purchase by digital download on the iTunes Store provided by defendant Apple," the suit claims.

Prince claims the show's widespread distribution on television and over the Internet has damaged a reputation he's worked hard to build through various community endeavors in the Houston area.

Prince and Randle are asking the court to order Apple, BET, and Viacom to cease distribution of the American Gangster episode and are also seeking unspecified damages.

The defendants, including Apple, have yet to file a formal response. However, the very fact that a lawsuit has been filed over content available through iTunes may cause Apple to take a hard look at its procedures for vetting material offered for sale on the store.

The suit highlights how the digital download business has placed tech vendors like Apple, and rival Microsoft, in the unfamiliar position of facing the same content-related liability issues that traditional publishers have stared down for years.

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