WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- A two-week trial between Eminem and New Zealand's National Party ended Friday at the High Court in Wellington, though the judge may not rule for months in the case.
Music publishers for the Detroit rapper are suing New Zealand's ruling conservative political party for copyright infringement.
At issue is the National Party's use of the song "Eminem Esque" in a 2014 television campaign ad that was run 186 times before it was pulled off the air. Eminem's publishers, Eight Mile Style, say the track is a rip-off of the rapper's acclaimed 2002 song "Lose Yourself," while the party says the song was inspired by the rapper's hit but is different.
National Party lawyer Greg Arthur said that there wasn't much originality in the music behind "Lose Yourself" and that the industry practice of making so-called "sound-alike" songs that were different enough to avoid copyright issues was well-established.
But Judge Helen Cull made some pointed observations during Arthur's summing up. She said when the two songs were overlaid, they kept the same beat and pattern and sounded almost "contemporaneous."
"It doesn't make it legitimate because somebody hasn't yet sued," the judge said. "It's a question of whether it is so alike that a sound-alike is crossing the line and becomes copyright infringement."
During the case, two musicologists gave differing opinions on whether the song used in the ad was a copy.
The campaign manager for the National Party said she'd sought and received assurances from music and advertising experts that using "Eminem Esque" would be acceptable because it was part of a licensed music library and was free from any copyright issues.
But Eight Mile Style lawyer Garry Williams said it was "utterly clear" the party knew it was infringing upon a copyrighted song.
The music publishers are seeking both a cash settlement for an undisclosed amount and an acknowledgement from the court that the National Party breached copyright. The judge plans to take up to three months to review the case before issuing her decision.