Nats Eminem bill drops on appeal

“Lose yourself” compared to “Single Ladies” in copyright case.
Eminem's publishers said the song was more valuable.

The National Party has been successful in reducing its penalty for copyright infringement during its 2014 election campaign.

The Court of Appeal on Tuesday reduced an award against the opposition party in favour of Eminem’s publishers, from $600,000 to $225,000.

The High Court at Wellington had awarded $600,000 after finding that a National Party rowboat ad had ripped off the rapper’s hit single Lose Yourself.

On appeal the National Party sought to reduce the amount while Eminem’s publishers wanted more money.

The amount was based on what experts believed a reasonable licence fee for the track would have been. The Court of Appeal undertook its own exercise of how much should be paid, with actual estimates in the case suppressed due to commercial sensitivity.

An expert witness for Eminem said Lose Yourself was in the same category as the most valuable of the Beatles works, Rolling Stones, Justin Timberlake and Adele.

That witness added: “There would be very few works that would be the same [calibre] in the Peermusic catalogue. I consider that Lose Yourself would be at least on a par with, if not more valuable than, Umbrella by Rhianna or Single Ladies by Beyoncé – both in Peermusic’s catalogue.”

However, an opposing witness said while the song was big-selling it was genre-specific, and therefore the licence wouldn’t be worth as much.

“Although the rap hip-hop genre has been around for in excess of 15 years, he viewed it as still a relatively new genre and, being an edgy genre, one that advertisers are wary of especially for broader market campaigns.”

The Court of Appeal panel of Justice Mark Cooper, Justice Brendan Brown and Justice Denis Clifford rejected the publisher’s counter-claim, saying there should be no additional damages because the National Party did not turn a blind eye to the risk of copyright.

National Party president Peter Goodfellow says in a statement the party will consider what its next steps will be. 

"We have always stood by the fact that we purchased a piece of production music from a reputable Australian-based music production library, which had purchased it from a US supplier."

The Electoral Commission says damages awarded by a court for breach of copyright would not be an election expense for the purposes of a party’s return of election expenses.