Eminem performed a freestyle rap at the BET Hip Hop Awards on Tuesday night where he tore into President Donald Trump.
Eminem and his song publisher have prevailed in a high-profile New Zealand case regarding a soundalike version of his hit “Lose Yourself,” in a ruling just issued there.
More than five months after hip-hop sounds got a rigorous analysis in a buttoned-down courtroom, the soundalike track — an instrumental titled “Eminem Esque” — was deemed too “strikingly similar” to Eminem’s original.
New Zealand’s center-right National Party aired its version 186 times as part of a television campaign ahead of the country’s 2014 general election. Eight Mile Style, the Ferndale company that oversees licensing of Eminem’s music, sued the party for copyright infringement.
The Eminem publisher has been awarded $700,00 New Zealand dollars — or about $482,000 U.S. — plus court and travel fees.
In her 134-page ruling today, Justice Helen Cull wrote that she was particularly compelled by the testimony of Jeff Bass, the song’s co-writer and producer:
“His intention to create a tense hypnotic feeling by the guitar strum, chords and drum beat succeeded, through the insistent rhythm and guitar strum,” Cull wrote. “The effect of this was amply demonstrated by Mr. Bass’s playing the guitar riff in court.”
The track used in the political ad campaign, she wrote, “was designed to ‘sound like’ Eminem and ‘Lose Yourself.’ “
In assessing damages, the judge agreed with Eminem’s team that “Lose Yourself” is the “jewel in the crown” of the rapper’s catalog, a “high value song” that can fetch premium licensing fees.
The National Party purchased the track for its ad from an Australian stock-music company. Trial testimony revealed that the ad’s creators had used “Lose Yourself” as a template during production, then replaced it with the purchased track, which a National Party attorney reportedly described in 2014 as “pretty legal.”
The party later argued in court it had “gold-standard” belief the track was safe for use, based on input from musicians such as former Split Enz bassist Mike Chunn.
Bass, who wrote the initial guitar riff and collaborated with Eminem during the filming of “8 Mile,” testified during the two-week trial in May. He detailed the track’s creation and called the National Party’s version “a blatant ripoff.”
“The intention was to create a tense, hypnotic feeling,” Bass said of “Lose Yourself” in court. “It starts playing and never goes away. Along with that drum beat, it actually will hypnotize you, where you are feeling that something’s going to happen.”
Musicologists also took the stand to compare and contrast the two tracks.
The case made international headlines in the spring, and was the topic of a segment on John Oliver’s HBO show.
The National Party was bumped from leadership in New Zealand’s latest election, replaced by the Labor Party.
“Lose Yourself” is Eminem’s signature song and biggest hit, having topped Billboard’s Hot 100 for 12 weeks in 2002-2003 while also winning the Academy Award for best original song. It ranked No. 10 in Detroit’s 100 Greatest Songs, a 2016 Free Press project based on voting by music experts and the public.
Contact Detroit Free Press music writer Brian McCollum: 313-223-4450 or [email protected]
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