Advice sought on Eminem 'soundalike' copyright, but not from a lawyer
Assurances were widely sought that the National Party had the right to use the music featured in its 2014 campaign adverts – but none of them were from a lawyer.
The party's adverts have landed it in the middle of an international claim for allegedly infringing the copyright for Lose Yourself, an Oscar-winning rap song performed by Eminem.
The party, and its secretary Gregory Hamilton, faced a claim in the High Court at Wellington that could cost them an unspecified but substantial sum, after paying $4802 for a "soundalike" composition from a production library of music commonly used for film, television and adverts.
Two United States companies that have the copyright for Lose Yourself claim the track Eminem Esque is so similar that it infringes the copyright.
* Lose Yourself composer plays guitar riff in court for Eminem song copyright case
* Eminem sues National over election ad
* National Party's ad 'bland' and using Eminem song would never be allowed
* National Party wants to divide and beat Eminem rap music claim
Giving evidence in court National's 2014 campaign manager, Jo de Joux, said a staff member raised the issue of the similarity with the Eminem music before the advert was televised. It was a concern because of possible copyright issues and the rapper had been accused of hate speech.
Other music was tried but it was decided to use the production music Eminem Esque provided it could be guaranteed there was no copyright issue.
De Joux said she was given assurances sourced from people in the music and advertising industries. She agreed a lawyer was not consulted.
She agreed she was sensitive to music copyright issues because of an earlier complaint relating to the band Coldplay, and did not want anything to distract from the core campaign message.
When the adverts were used in August 2014, Stuff journalist Hamish Rutherford asked about the music, she agreed. A "cease and desist" letter followed on behalf of the Lose Yourself copyright holders.
The music on the adverts was changed.
Auckland marketing consultant Peter Moore, from the company set up to do the campaign work, said he checked with multiple people and was assured there was no copyright issue if the licensing fee was paid under the approved scheme. Moore's evidence was to continue on Thursday.
The party's lawyer, Greg Arthur, said Eminem Esque composer Michael Cohen had declined to give evidence at the case.
Having received assurances about its right to use the music, the party was now bemused to be the subject ot the claim, he said.
Copyright protected originality, and did not stop similarities in the work of the less-famous, Arthur said.
The US creators of Lose Yourself were Eminem, Jeff Bass and Luis Resto. Bass gave evidence in Wellington on Tuesday that he thought Eminem Esque was a blatant ripoff.
He also played live the opening guitar riff that he composed for Lose Yourself.
The man who is in charge of licensing deals for Lose Yourself, Joel Martin of Detroit, has been in New Zealand for the case.
He said he thought the National Party adverts substantially reproduced Lose Yourself. He said the owners would never have given permission for the music to be used in the adverts but, if they had, a fee of up to about $1 million might have been charged.
Some details of the song's ownership arrangement have not been made public, but two US companies have taken the case by having the rights to negotiate and enforce copyright for the owners.
During the case, witnesses have been called to give evidence about the factors that can affect the licensing fees paid to use music in adverts, but discussion of the sums charged has been kept behind closed doors because of its commercial sensitivity.
If the National Party's defence to the copyright claim fails it was expected there would be a second part to the case in which the party would seek to recover its losses from other entities allegedly involved in supplying and authorising the use of Eminem Esque.