Harlene Stein is a 70-year-old grandma, so you can forgive her if it took her a while to get hip to Eminem. She’s suing the rapper for unauthorized use of a sample to which she claims to be the copyright holder, a snippet of a film soundtrack composed by her late husband, on his 1999 hit ”Guilty Conscience,” a song she didn’t hear until more than a year after its release. In the suit, filed last month in U.S. District Court in California and posted online at The Smoking Gun, Stein seeks unspecified damages from Eminem, Dr. Dre (credited as cowriter of ”Guilty Conscience”), and their affiliated record labels and music publishers.
Stein’s late husband, Ronald Stein, composed dozens of film scores for low-budget sci-fi and exploitation films (”Not of this Earth,” ”Attack of the 50 Foot Woman”), but toward the end of his career, he got to score more prestigious pictures like ”Getting Straight” (1970), which starred Elliott Gould and Candice Bergen as university students caught up in campus protests. Stein’s score contains a 24-second instrumental snippet called ”Pigs Go Home,” which Eminem and Dre used as the background music in ”Guilty Conscience.”
The liner notes on ”The Slim Shady LP” acknowledge that it samples the ”Getting Straight” fragment, but it does not credit Stein, and it cites the publisher as EMI Music. In fact, Harlene Stein’s primary beef may be with the publisher, whom she singles out in the suit for a breach of contract claim. According to EMI Music’s licensing clearinghouse website, the company still claims a 50 percent ownership in the Eminem song because of the Stein fragment. Harlene Stein’s suit, however, claims she is the sole copyright holder to her late husband’s work. If she’s right, Stein, who has yet to see a dime in royalties, could be entitled to a big payoff, since the Eminem CD sold 5 million copies.