Eminem’s hit Lose Yourself has been played to a New Zealand court tasked with determining whether the National Party infringed the rapper’s copyright in a 2014 election campaign advertisement.
Eminem filed proceedings against the National Party in September 2014 for allegedly using an unlicensed version of his chart-topping song in an election campaign advertisement. The hearing began in the Wellington high court on Monday.
Eminem’s Detroit-based publishers, Eight Mile Style and Martin Affiliated, said at the time it was seeking damages for copyright infringement of his Grammy and Academic Award-winning song, which featured in the 2002 film 8 Mile.
The television advertisement campaigning for then-leader John Key’s re-election as prime minister was set to instrumental production music allegedly resembling the beat of Lose Yourself.
The National party vowed to defend the action “vigorously” as the track, titled “Eminem Esque” [sic], had allegedly been bought from the Australian production music library Beatbox Music and used by others without complaint.
The judge-only hearing at the Wellington high court was scheduled to take six days. The New Zealand Herald reported that, “unfortunately, Eminem is not expected to make an appearance at the trial”.
Representing the plaintiff, Garry Williams said Eminem’s “iconic musical composition” was rarely licensed and rights to it were “enormously valuable”: “Lose Yourself is a jewel in the crown of Eminem’s catalogue”.
The song, which topped the charts in 24 countries, dealt with “the idea of losing yourself in the moment and not missing opportunities in life”, said Williams, according to AFP.
“That’s why the song appeals to both the public and those who wish to influence the public by using it in advertising.”
No details were immediately revealed of what damages Eminem was seeking. Guardian Australia has contacted representatives of the National Party for comment.
Associated Press reported that the judge and nine lawyers listened “politely” as Williams introduced “the sound recording which embodies the musical work, Lose Yourself,” to the court. Newshub captured the scene on video.
According to AP, Williams quoted from National Party emails, including one in which a representative for the party wrote: “I guess the question we’re asking, if everyone thinks it’s Eminem, and it’s listed as Eminem Esque, how can we be confident that Eminem doesn’t say we’re ripping him off?”
Joel Martin, a spokesman for Eminem’s music publishers, told AP outside the court that he was surprised the two sides hadn’t reached a settlement before the case began.
Going to trial against an entity like a governing political party was unusual and extraordinary, he said.
“The bottom line is we would never have permitted the use of the song in any political advertisement.”
He said the political views of the National party were not a factor: “We are Americans and we don’t know about politics in New Zealand.”
A representative for the National Party said he could not comment while the matter was before the courts.