Eminem New Zealand Lawsuit Wraps Up

Eminem’s copyright hearing against the New Zealand government wrapped up May 12 after two weeks at the High Court in Wellington. But a ruling may not be made for a few months, NZ media speculated, while Judge Helen Cull considers the outcome.   

McKay / Music Midtown Festival / GettyImages.com
– Eminem
Music Midtown Festival at Piedmont Park in Atlanta, Ga.

At issue was if the ruling National Party had used a soundalike track of the Detroit rapper’s 2002 track “Lose Yourself” during its 2014 election campaign. It ran 186 times before it was pulled off the air when a campaign member noted a similarity.

But the party felt it was safe from any legal hassles because it had legitimately licenced its track, titled “Eminemesque,” from a production house library.

Detroit publishers Eight Mile Style and and Martin Affiliated claimed the ad track was a deliberate infringement. The Nationals argued theirs may have been inspired by the Grammy-winning song but insist there was nothing that original about the song in the first place. Two musicologists could not agree on the level of similarities the two pieces of music.

But Detroit area guitarist and songwriter Jeff Bass who reproduced his opening guitar riff from “Lose Yourself” in court on an acoustic guitar called it a “blatant rip-off” and “Lose Yourself Lite.”

Bass co-wrote the song with Eminem and Luis Resto. The court listened to profanity-filled rap tracks, and also to “Twist & Shout “and “La Bamba” as examples where similarities did not automatically mean infringement.

However, the judge, who at one stage asked for the music volume to be turned up (“I’m not shy of loud music”), would not accept that.

“It doesn’t make it legitimate because somebody hasn’t yet sued,” she said. “It’s a question of whether it is so alike that a sound-alike is crossing the line and becomes copyright infringement.”

According to Stuff.co.nzCull will, before she makes her ruling public, issue a draft judgment to the two parties to check no confidential material is revealed. Presumably this covers the ownership split of the song or licensing rates of sound libraries