National Party found guilty of copyright breach

High Court orders damages $700,000 including interest

Venkat Raman

The National Party of New Zealand received another blow on October 25, 2017, when the Wellington High Court found it guilty in the copyright case filed by Eminem Music Company Eight Mile Style and song writers Jeff Bass and Luis Resto.

The case related to a song titled, Lose Yourself, an Original track of Eminem allegedly used by the National Party calling its song, Eminem Esque and used in the 2014 General Election advertising campaign.

The plaintiffs had engaged Simpson Solicitors, an Australian Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law Practice, to defend their case.

Too close to infringement

Lawyer Adam Simpson said that ‘Sound alike’ tracks are often used in advertising to be reminiscent of well-known original music, while avoiding appropriate acknowledgement and payment for the use of the original piece, but getting too close to the original risks infringing copyright.

Eminem Esque clearly stepped over the line. It copied the essential elements that made Lose Yourself a global hit. It was calculated and intentional. Changing a few notes here and there just doesn’t cut it,” he said.

The Judgement

In her ruling, Presiding Judge Justice Helen Cull said, “Eminem Esque is strikingly similar to Lose Yourself with minimal discernible differences and objectively, it was designed to “sound like” Eminem and Lose Yourself… In my view, the high licensing value placed on Lose Yourself by Eight Mile Style for their “jewel in the crown’ justifies a willing licensor to demand a high fee for its use. The National Party was also a very willing licensee, because they specifically wanted the Lose Yourself sound.”

She ordered damages of $700,000 including interest.

Company Reaction

Joel Martin of Eight Mile Style said, “We find it incredible that the National 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.”

Mr Simpson said that the ruling clarified and confirmed the rights of artists and songwriters, setting a major precedent in New Zealand and that it would be influential in Australia, UK and elsewhere.

“This decision is a warning to ‘sound alike’ music producers and their clients everywhere,” Mr Adam Simpson said.

National Party disappointed

National Party President Peter Goodfellow said that his Party was disappointed with the High Court decision.

“However, the High Court found that before using the track, the Party took extensive advice and sought assurances from industry professionals that the track could be used by the Party. The judgment has also found that the Party in using the track did not act flagrantly or in a manner which justifies the Party being further punished,” he said.

“The music was licensed with one of New Zealand’s main industry copyright bodies, the Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (AMCOS). Being licensed and available for purchase, and having taken advice from our suppliers, the Party believed the purchase was legal,” he said.

Mr Goodfellow said that 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,” he said.

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Photo Caption:

Peter Goodfellow

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