Cas Carter: No hiding down under from Eminem's lawyers for National Party

Rapper Eminem alleges the National Party has used one of his tracks in an advertisement without permission.
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Rapper Eminem alleges the National Party has used one of his tracks in an advertisement without permission.

OPINION: I can't wait for the general election if it elicits more courtroom hilarity like the one we watched last week when the National Party got linked to bad boy rapper Eminem.

The National Party has been accused of ripping off Eminem's sound track Lose Yourself for its last campaign. The party says it was assured the music wasn't the rapper's, it was simply Eminem-esque. But it didn't check with its lawyers.

National paid around $4000 for the use of the track. The use of an Eminem track, if allowed at all, would cost millions.

"Music is big business and compositions are intellectual property. A good sound track can change your mood, set off ...
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"Music is big business and compositions are intellectual property. A good sound track can change your mood, set off endorphins and make your ad memorable," Cas Carter says.

There was irony upon irony.

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The incredibly dull ad urging us to vote for status quo used a sound track all about taking chances.

And then there was the hilarious irony of respectable judges and lawyers having to listen to "mother f......" lyrics to decide if the music was a 'sound-alike' track or the real thing.

The court battle was funny enough to give American comedian John Oliver another chance to have a poke at New Zealand and became compulsory viewing for me.

The lawyers and judge were so po-faced, I was longing for a colourful lawyer like a Mike Bungay or a Rob Moodie to burst into the courtroom to 'ham it up' a bit.

Choosing music for campaigns is not easy. Tracks can sound similar, and National Party lawyers tried to prove that by playing music in the courtroom from Justin Bieber and Skrillex, and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and the ABC song to show they are identical.

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If the National Party thought it could lose itself by using a third-party supplier and hiding away in New Zealand, they now know they're wrong. Musicians' lawyers are constantly trawling for possible copyright infringements.

But why would Eminem's crew care?

Publicity? Nah.

Principle? Probably.

Money? Certainly.

Brand protection? Definitely.

Music is big business and compositions are intellectual property. A good sound track can change your mood, set off endorphins and make your ad memorable.

There is nothing like a catchy ditty to keep reminding you of – well – the National Party. No wonder Eminem sued.

Yes, musicians do sell their music for advertising, but I'm sure there are few rappers wanting to associate their creations with a slightly Right leaning political party.

I doubt if Eminem even knows about this, but if he did there could be another song about the irony of how the conservatives stole his music.

How has everyone fared in this courtroom comedy? Well, it may or may not cost the National Party a fine, depending on the verdict which has been reserved. But either way it looks naive and tight for trying to get away with using a licensing company and not checking with a lawyer.

The hilarious case has reminded us that intellectual property comes in all forms and we are being watched from every corner of the world in case we infringe it.

It's a good reminder for political parties, and in fact anyone wanting to use someone else's music for marketing purposes. With so much free public access to music, the average musician is finding it much harder to protect their intellectual property and make a living.

That said, I'd like to say 'yo' National Party, thanks for the entertainment. Maybe in this year's election campaign we'll get the chance to see some more political hopefuls 'getting down' with some bad boy rapping.

Just watch out for music ending in 'esque' – because there's a world full of lawyers watching you.

Cas Carter is a marketing and communications specialist.

 - Stuff

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