A New Zealand judge awarded Eminem‘s publishing company $600,000 ($415,000 USD) after ruling that a political party violated the rapper’s copyright by using a song similar to his 2002 8 Mile hit “Lose Yourself” in a 2014 election advertisement. The country’s High Court deemed that the track in question – tellingly titled “Eminem-esque,” which the National Party purchased from a stock music library – was “sufficiently similar” to the hip-hop star’s “highly original work,” The New Zealand Herald reports.
Justice Helen Cull described “Lose Yourself” – one of Rolling Stone‘s 100 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All-Time – as “distinctive,” not only due to its melodic content but also its arrangement, “particularly the guitar riff, the timbre, the strong hypnotic rhythm and the recurring violin instrumentation and the piano figure.” She added, “It is no coincidence that ‘Lose Yourself’ received the 2003 Academy Award for Best Original Song.”
The High Court awarded Eight Mile Style, the song’s publisher, damages plus interest from June 28th, 2014. The ad for National Party candidate Steven Joyce aired over 100 times. However, the court did not grant additional damages, ruling that the National Party did not act reckless by using the song, having sought out professional, commercial and media advice.
The National Party purchased “Eminem-esque” from the company Beatbox, which secured a license from music library Labrador. The party is now considering legal action against the suppliers and licensors. Lawyers representing Eight Mile Style called the decision “a warning to sound-alike music producers and their clients everywhere.”
“Eminem was not a party to this lawsuit nor was he consulted regarding the case,” a rep for the rapper said in a statement. “Any monetary settlement he receives from it will be donated to hurricane relief. He encourages the plaintiffs, 8 Mile Style, to do the same.” A rep for Eminem’s publishing company did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
The ruling was not without its humor, with the presiding judge inserting lyrics to “Lose Yourself” in the decision. “The lyrics to ‘Lose Yourself’ have a heightened irony in the context of these proceedings,” wrote Judge Hull. “The words of Peterson J in University of London Press Ltd v University Tutorial Press Ltd are apt: …what is worth copying is prima facie worth protecting. And prophetically so rapped Eminem: You better lose yourself in the music, the moment, You own it, you better never let it go…”
As previously reported in The New Zealand Herald, at least some National Party members appeared to be aware of the two songs’ similarities. In emails revealed during the trial, one 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?”
The hearing, which launched in May, often bordered on the surreal, with stoic lawyers analyzing “Lose Yourself” at full volume. The case became fodder for late-night hosts and TV commentary. Last Week Tonight‘s John Oliver joked that the Eminem/National Party showdown as “unquestionably the lamest rap beef since Lil Wayne’s five-year feud with William H. Macy.”