Simpsons Solicitors

Musicians’ rights upheld in key court decision: Eminem and Eight Mile Style strike blow against rip-offs

October 25th 2017

The High Court of New Zealand today found the National Party of New Zealand ripped-off Eminem’s hit song Lose Yourself in its 2014 election advertising campaign and ordered significant damages.

“This decision is a warning to ‘sound alike’ music producers and their clients everywhere,” said Adam Simpson, director of Simpsons Solicitors, who acted for Eminem’s music company, Eight Mile Style and writers Jeff Bass and Luis Resto.

“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, the UK and elsewhere.”

The music used in the National Party ad was called Eminem-esque, copying and exploiting the original award-winning music. ‘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. Getting too close to the original risks infringing copyright.

Mr Simpson added: “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.”

Justice Helen Cull, ordered damages of NZ$700,000 including interest.

In her decision Justice Cull wrote:

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.”

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.”

A copy of Justice Cull’s decision can be found here.