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Eminem Rip-Off Costs New Zealand's National Party $415,000

Image: Eminem
EminemPierre Andrieu / AFP - Getty Images file

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — A judge said Eminem's lyrics "You own it, you better never let it go" turned out to be prophetic after ruling a New Zealand political party breached copyright by using a song similar to Eminem's "Lose Yourself" in its campaign ads.

High Court Judge Helen Cull on Wednesday ordered the conservative National Party to pay the Detroit rapper's publisher around $415,000 plus interest.

Image: Eminem
EminemPierre Andrieu / AFP - Getty Images file

The case earlier featured odd moments such as gowned lawyers listening studiously to profanity-laced rap and Eminem collaborator Jeff Bass flying in from Detroit to play the song's distinctive opening riff, which he wrote.

"We think it's a very strong judgment, and a cautionary tale for people who make or use sound-alikes around the world," said Adam Simpson, a Sydney-based lawyer who represented Eminem publisher Eight Mile Style. "We hope that we see more original music in advertising as a result, and that writers get properly acknowledged and rewarded for their hard work."

Speaking by phone from Detroit, Eight Mile Style publisher Joel Martin said he'd been infuriated during the trial by the defense's absurd contention that "Lose Yourself" wasn't original because it used the same chords as other songs.

"They could have said anything but question its originality," he said.

Martin said he hadn't yet discussed the ruling with Eminem, aka Marshall Mathers III, but was glad the rapper hadn't been needed to travel to New Zealand "to watch the paint dry in the court room."

National Party President Peter Goodfellow said in statement he was disappointed with the ruling. He said the party purchased the music in good faith from an Australia-based library that had bought it from a U.S. supplier.

He said the party was considering its next steps and had already lodged a claim against the suppliers and licensors of the sound-alike track.

The National Party ran a television ad 186 times that used the song "Eminem Esque" during its successful 2014 election campaign before pulling the ad off the air.

In her 132-page ruling, Cull said "Eminem Esque" sounded like a copy and was a copy, reproducing the essence of "Lose Yourself." She said it was no coincidence the composer of "Eminem Esque" had the music to the original in front of him when he wrote his song.

The judge based the amount of the award on a hypothetical license fee that the party might have paid to use the song. She noted that Eight Mile Style rarely grants permission to use "Lose Yourself" in advertising.

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