A group of small music publishers have launched legal action against iTunes and other digital music services, accusing the services of failing to secure licences to sell downloads.

A Billboard report reveals that Euro Tec Publishing, Bruce Caplin, Prestoons Music and others have launched the litigation against Apple, AOL, Music Now, Buy.com, Microsoft, Napster, Real Networks, Record Town, Sony Connect, Virgin Entertainment Group, Wal-Mart and Yahoo!.

The report explains that the essence of the case is procedural. Existing US copyright law provides for compulsory licences in order to prevent publishers refusing to license previously recorded and released songs if proper procedures are followed. However, the plaintiffs claim that the online services have failed to follow those procedures, meaning music is being sold without authority.

Independent music publisher MCS Music America filed a December 2005 lawsuit against Napster that made similar accusations.