The 2014 ad for National Party candidate Steven Joyce used an unlicensed instrumental rendition of Eminem's 8 Mile hit without permission; the music in the commercial even had the copyright-baiting title "Eminem-esque."
According to the New Zealand Herald, in National Party emails revealed during the trial, one party member wrote, "I guess the question we're asking, if everyone thinks it's Eminem, and it's listed as 'Eminem-esque,' how can we be confident that Eminem doesn't say we're ripping him off?"
When Eminem's publishers found out about the ad – "[Eminem-esque] was found quickly because the track has 'Eminem' in the title," the rapper's lawyer Gary Williams told the court – they promptly filed a copyright infringement lawsuit, resulting in today's proceedings.
"The song 'Lose Yourself,' is without doubt the jewel in the crown of Eminem's musical work. Not only did the song win an Academy Award for Best Original Song in a movie, it also won two Grammy Awards," Williams said in his opening remarks.
"In short, 'Lose Yourself' is an extremely valuable song. The licensing of the song has been extremely carefully controlled. Despite many requests, it has only rarely been licensed for advertising purposes. When licensed, it can command in the millions of dollars. That's how valuable it is."
A first: sitting in the High Court, Eminem playing, as unsmiling lawyers and High Court Justice listen intently.— Frances Cook (@FrancesCook) April 30, 2017
Eminem spokesman Joel Martin told the Associated Press outside the courthouse that the rapper's publishers were surprised the National Party didn't settle the case before it went to trial, as is typically customary when politicians face legal action for using artists' work without permission.
"The bottom line is we would never have permitted the use of the song in any political advertisement," Martin said, adding that the National Party's conservative platform had nothing to do with the lawsuit. "We are Americans and we don't know about politics in New Zealand."
The "Lose Yourself" trial is expected to last one week.