National paid under $5000 for song at centre of 'Lose Yourself' court battle

'Eminem Esque' was used by National in a 2014 general election campaign (Getty)
'Eminem Esque' was used by National in a 2014 general election campaign (Getty)

National paid less than $5000 to license production music that an Eminem collaborator says is a rip-off of the rapper's hit 'Lose Yourself', a court has heard on Wednesday.

Eight Mile Style, a US copyright administrator that works on behalf of Eminem and his co-writers, is suing the National Party and its general secretary Gregory Hamilton for copyright infringement.

National used a piece of music called 'Eminem Esque' in a television advertisement during the 2014 general election campaign.

Eight Mile Style says the music, which shares similar guitar riffs and tempo with 'Lose Yourself', infringes on the copyright of the 2002 Eminem track.

During his opening arguments in the Wellington High Court on Wednesday, National's lawyer Greg Arthur revealed the party paid $4802 to license 'Eminem Esque' from an online production music library called BeatBox.

Mr Arthur said shortly after it was purchased by a National staff member who heard it and thought it sounded similar to 'Lose Yourself'.

Staff also mentioned Eminem had been associated with hate speech in the past.

Mr Arthur said campaign staff then asked the production company making their election advertisements, Stan 3, to look for alternative music.

However when a range of music was later played to staff at a campaign meeting, 'Eminem Esque' was chosen as the preferred option.

National's 2014 election campaign manager Joanne De Joux told the court an email was sent to music executive Paul Ellis asking if he'd heard of Eminem's link to hate speech.

Mr Ellis said he had and was then asked his opinion on whether any legal problems would arise from using 'Eminem Esque'.

Ms De Joux told the court that in an email reply Mr Ellis said "something to the effect" that "it's a possibility" there would be legal problems but that as long as they had a license for 'Eminem Esque' it would be fine.

Mr Arthur said as soon as a cease and desist order was received from Eight Mile Style National pulled its advertisements featuring 'Eminem Esque' and chose different music.

He also said the defendants "seem somewhat bemused" that they are being sued for copyright despite doing "everything they could" to stop using the music once they were asked to.

Mr Arthur said Eight Mile Style was seeking "enormous damages" for the use of "routine" library music.

"Merely because you hear similarities between the two songs doesn't mean there is copyright infringement", Mr Arthur said.