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Damages bill cut in New Zealand political party’s copyright battle with Eminem

By | Published on Wednesday 19 December 2018


New Zealand’s National Party has managed to get nearly NZ$375,000 knocked off the damages bill in its copyright dispute with Eminem.

The New Zealand political party found itself in court last year fighting Eminem’s publishing company over a piece of music it used in a campaign ad back in 2014. Although the party had licensed that piece of music from a library music company, the court agreed with Eminem’s legal team that it nevertheless ripped off the rapper’s hit ‘Lose Yourself’.

Indeed, so clear was the rip off, that the court decided the party’s library music licence was irrelevant and it had still infringed Eminem’s copyright with its advert. The fact that the library music track was called ‘Eminem-esque’ and that people working on the campaign had noted its likeness to ‘Lose Yourself’ didn’t help the politicians’ case.

Should that infringement cost the National Party NZ$600,000 though? Eminem’s side actually argued that the damages should be higher, not least because there’s no way his publishing company would have licensed the music for a political ad had it been asked.

However, in the New Zealand court of appeal back in July, legal reps for the National Party argued that the damages figure was way too high. The party had acted in good faith when it licensed the ‘Eminem-esque’ track, its lawyers argued, and there was no way it would have gone ahead with a licensing deal with the rapper’s company had a $600,000 sync fee been on the table.

The politicians also argued that they picked ‘Eminem-eque’ because the beat was in sync with the what was happening in their ad (some rowers rowing), not because they wanted any association with the rapper. Plus before they opted to use that particular track, others were also being considered.

To that end the National Party wanted the court of appeal to cut the damages bill down to size. And that’s exactly what it did today, knocking the total figure down to NZ$225,000.

According to the New Zealand Herald, the appeals court said in its ruling: “On the evidence, the proposition [that] the National Party turned a blind eye to the risk of copyright infringement or saw a risk and embarked on a reckless course of conduct with respect to that risk was not sustainable”.