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Eminem wins NZ$600,000 damages in sound-a-like infringement case

By | Published on Wednesday 25 October 2017


So, it turns out that the piece of library music called ‘Eminem-esque’ used by New Zealand’s ruling National Party in a 2014 campaign ad was a little too Eminem-esque. So much so, a court has ordered the political party to pay Eminem’s publishing company NZ$600,000 in damages for copyright infringement. Which is sure to make some palms sweaty.

As previously reported, Eminem’s music publishing company sued the National Party over the soundtrack to its 2014 election campaign commercial which sounded really rather like the rapper’s hit song ‘Lose Yourself’.

The politicians insisted that they had properly licensed the Eminem-esque ‘Eminem-esque’ track that featured in their ad from a production music company called Beatbox. Though legal reps for Slim Shady pointed to emails between people working for the National Party which discussed the similarities between their ad track and ‘Lose Yourself’, and which acknowledged that they risked being accused of ripping off the rapper’s music.

When the case got to court back in May, a legal rep for the National Party argued that there wasn’t all that much originality in the core composition of ‘Lose Yourself’. The politicians’ lawyers also claimed that the creation and use of ‘sound-alike’ tracks that sound very similar to hit records, but not so similar as to a constitute copyright breach, was common practice in the production music business. Which it probably is.

Either way, the judge overseeing the case in New Zealand’s high court has sided with Eminem, stating that “‘Eminem-esque’ has substantially copied ‘Lose Yourself'”, which, by the way, is actually “a highly original work”.

The ruling goes on: “The differences between the two works are minimal; the close similarities and the indiscernible differences in drum beat, the ‘melodic line’ and the piano figures make ‘Eminem-esque’ strikingly similar to ‘Lose Yourself'”.

Needless to say, reps for the rapper have welcomed the ruling. Speaking for Eminem’s music publishing business, Joel Martin said: “We find it incredible that the National Party went to such great lengths to avoid responsibility for using a weak rip-off of ‘Lose Yourself’. They knew we would not have permitted the use of the song in their political advertisement; however, they proceeded at their own risk and blamed others for their infringement”.

As the National Party considers its options, any production music companies with sound-a-like tracks in their catalogues might want to review their repertoires.

Adam Simpson, one of the lawyers working for Eminem’s side, noted: “This decision is a warning to sound-a-like music producers and their clients everywhere. The ruling clarifies and confirms the rights of artists and songwriters”.

Simpson added that the ruling “sets a major precedent in New Zealand and will be influential in Australia, the UK and elsewhere”. So, sort out your sound-a-likes, music libraries, otherwise you too might experience the stress of legal action from a superstar rapper. And that’s no fun. There’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti.