Guess who’s back? The “Eminem Esque” case is back, and New Zealand’s conservative National Party has walked away winners after the appeals court slashed the damages they have to pay a U.S. music publisher.
It’s all stems from a rap battle that kicked off in May 2017, when Eminem’s Detroit-based publishers sued the Nationals for breaching the copyright in the rap god’s classic “Lose Yourself.”
The Nationals were taken to task in the High Court of New Zealand last year over “Eminem Esque,” a piece of production music used in a 2014 election campaign, which the party won.
The Court found “Eminem Esque” substantially copied “Lose Yourself” and awarded damages of NZ$600,000 ($572,000) to Eight Mile Style, the exclusive licensee and co-owner of Eminem’s stirring original.
After the lawsuit was launched, campaign manager Steven Joyce offered a unique defence of his party’s use of the song as “pretty legal”, and that Eminem’s team “are just having a crack and a bit of an eye for the main chance because it’s an election campaign”.
Eminem’s team didn’t see it that way and U.S.-based British political commentator John Oliver took Joyce to task with his dubious word flow: “Pretty legal? That’s not a concept that exists. That’s like being sort-of dead,” Oliver quipped on HBO’s Last Week Tonight.
Make up your own mind.
But in a new decision released Tuesday, the Court of Appeal ruled that those damages should be scaled down to NZ$225,000 ($214,000). Nationals lawyers had argued in their appeal that the original damages were determined by a judge’s expert who had no relevant experience in setting such figures, notes Billboard. And the court took into account the short runtime of the election ad — which appeared 186 times and got yanked after just 11 days on air — and the “relatively small population” who saw it, reads an Appeals Court summary.
The political party has previously said it legally acquired rights to the track, which like the 8 Mile original opens with a tense guitar lick and pushes forward with a sense of urgency.
A spokesperson for the Nats didn’t respond to a request for comment at deadline, while reps for Eight Mile Style couldn’t be reached.
The result of the original court case was closely watched by the international music biz and copyright lawyers. APRA AMCOS described the situation at the time as an “unfortunate matter” and issued its own “strong recommendation” to clients on how to avoid copyright infringement lawsuits (In short, if you’re planning to use a piece of production music that sounds similar to an existing track, seek legal advice).
While the NZ Nationals are feeling like Christmas came early, Eminem will be giving the gift of rap when he returns to Australia and New Zealand next year for a five-date stadium tour starting Feb. 20 at Brisbane’s QSAC. TEG Dainty is producing the Rapture trek.