National Party loses copyright battle with Eminem, must pay $600k
By Sophie Boot
Oct. 25 (BusinessDesk) - The National Party has lost its copyright infringement court battle with US rapper Eminem over the unauthorised use of the rapper's 'Lose Yourself' song in a 2014 election campaign advertisement.
Earlier this year, the Wellington High Court heard the case, brought by the Detroit-based publishers of the rapper's music Eight Mile Style and Martin Affiliated, which sought damages for copyright infringement against the National Party. Eminem's 'Lose Yourself' featured on the rapper's '8 Mile' movie and the publishers alleged National's television campaign ads featured the song without authorisation.
The National Party said it bought the music from production music supplier Beatbox and had been assured by the library music service the music did not infringe any copyright and was an original work. The music licence and fee were arranged through the Australasian Performing Rights Association and Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society, which exists to "protect the rights of artists" and the music had been licensed multiple times both in Australia and New Zealand without complaint in the past, it said.
In a judgment released this afternoon, Justice Helen Cull found the National Party committed three restricted acts amounting to copyright infringement. The judge said Eight Mile Style is entitled to damages on a “user principle” basis in the sum of $600,000, with annual interest 5 percent, from June 28, 2014.
The judge said 'Lose Yourself' was unique and high-value work, "which has been licensed rarely to preserve and increase its rarity and value. Eight Mile Style has imposed strict creative controls on any licence to maintain the integrity of the work and the personal interests of the authors."
While the song was used for just 11 days, there was intensive use in that time, with the 30 second National Party advertisement screened 186 times and in the opening broadcast Eminem Esque was played eight times in that period, the judge said.
While the National Party had pleaded the positive defence of innocent infringement under the act, at the close of trial the National Party did not pursue or rely on that defence, the judge said.
National Party president Peter Goodfellow said it was disappointed with the decision, and 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," Goodfellow said. "Being licensed and available for purchase, and having taken advice from our suppliers, the party believed the purchase was legal."
Justice Cull said the $600,000 fee was an award of damages against the National Party for copyright infringement, though the ultimate liability for damages is to be determined among the third parties, who have been joined to this proceeding. This will be the subject of a further hearing.