NZ party to pay damages to Eminem

New Zealand's National Party had used music similar to American musician Eminem's hit track Lose Yourself in a 2014 election campaign television commercial.
New Zealand's National Party had used music similar to American musician Eminem's hit track Lose Yourself in a 2014 election campaign television commercial.PHOTO: REUTERS

AUCKLAND • After New Zealand's conservative National Party failed to retain its governorship of the country following last month's general election, it has been dealt another blow.

This time, a court has ruled in favour of American musician Eminem, who sued the party for using music similar to his hit track Lose Yourself in a 2014 election campaign television commercial.

New Zealand's High Court yesterday found that the party had breached copyright and ordered it to pay NZ$600,000 (S$560,000) plus interest in damages, reported Bloomberg.

"This decision is a warning to 'soundalike' music producers and their clients everywhere," said Simpsons Solicitors director Adam Simpson, who acted for Eminem's music company. "The ruling clarifies and confirms the rights of artists and songwriters. It sets a major precedent in New Zealand and will be influential in Australia, Britain and elsewhere."

National said it believed it had purchased the music, titled Eminem Esque, legally as it came from a reputable Australia-based music production library.

The party used the cover of the 2002 hit song 186 times on TV before pulling the advertisement.

The High Court said the sound-alike track "substantially copied" Lose Yourself and the differences between the two are minimal.

"National is disappointed with today's High Court decision," its president Peter Goodfellow said.

"The party is now considering the implications of the judgment and the next steps. We already have a claim against the suppliers and licensors of the track."

Eminem's company said it is "incredible that the 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".

In 2004, Eminem also sued Apple for using the same song in a TV commercial without permission. The suit was settled out of court.

Other musicians have also gone on the warpath.

Last year, the Rolling Stones, Adele and Elton John lashed out at United States President Donald Trump, who used Start Me Up, Rolling In The Deep and Rocket Man respectively during his campaign for the White House.

Neil Young, who also took umbrage at Mr Trump's use of Rockin' In The Free World, wrote on Facebook: "I do not trust politicians... I trust people. So I make my music for people, not for candidates."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2017, with the headline 'NZ party to pay damages to Eminem'. Print Edition | Subscribe