A story out of Reuters today says that Apple may have the advantage when it enters contract negotiations with record labels over the next month. “The owner of the market-leading iPod digital media player and iTunes online music store has already cut an early deal with EMI Group, the third-largest record company, and enters talks with the other labels from a position of strength, according to music industry executives,” notes Reuters. “That leaves Vivendi’s Universal Music Group; Sony BMG Music Entertainment, which is a joint venture of Sony Corp. and Bertelsmann; and Warner Music Group in a tough spot.” A music executive who spoke on condition of anonymity says: “EMI struck a deal that puts all of us at a disadvantage.” He said EMI had agreed to let Apple sell its music without anti-piracy protection to please shareholders concerned that the record company was behind in the digital music race.