Judge rules on Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’, compares lyrics to key legal principles

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By Katie King on

Judgment in case which brought us hilarious viral video does not disappoint

The copyright case that brought us that viral video, embedded above so you can watch it and laugh all over again, has culminated in one of the best judgments we’ve ever read.

The legal squabble in question was between Detroit rapper Eminem and a New Zealand right-wing party. It concerned Eminem’s 2002 track ‘Lose Yourself’, the soundtrack to the film 8 Mile and the first ever rap song to win an Academy Award for Best Original Song. The New Zealand National Party had used a musical piece called ‘Eminem Esque’ in its 2014 election campaign, which the case’s claimants argued was so similar to ‘Lose Yourself’ that it breached copyright laws.

Judge Helen Cull agreed. In a judgment including multiple images of the tracks’ sheet music, she awarded the claimants AUS$535,000 (£312,000) in damages.

A screenshot from the judgment

It isn’t just the images that make the 132-page judgment so readable, but also Cull’s exploration of the popular rap song.

Our favourite part has got to be this comparison with the 1916 case of University of London Press v University Tutorial Press, where the court was asked to decide whether exam papers can be copyrighted. Cull, brilliantly, said:

“The lyrics to ‘Lose Yourself’ have a heightened irony in the context of these proceedings. The words of Peterson J in University of London Press Ltd v University Tutorial Press Ltd are apt: ‘…what is worth copying is prima facie worth protecting.’

And prophetically so rapped Eminem: ‘You better lose yourself in the music, the moment, you own it, you better never let it go…’”

Well, I guess any judgment that’s first paragraph opens “So raps Eminem to the musical work of ‘Lose Yourself’” was always going to be a good one.

A screenshot from the judgment

This is not the first time a judge has delighted us with their pop culture prowess. In 2015, a US judge threw out a plagiarism claim made against Taylor Swift by using lyrics penned by the music star. Lines included: “the court is not saying that [the claimant] can never, ever, ever get his case back in court”, a reference to the star’s hit ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’.

Though we’d like UK judges to follow suit, we’re not all that hopeful. One judge, sitting at Plymouth Crown Court in 2016, had to momentarily halt proceedings in a counterfeit merchandise trial because he didn’t know who One Direction were.

But don’t assume all our precious judges are fuddy-duddies. Before he hung up his robes this summer, former Supreme Court president Lord Neuberger admitted he listens to Brooklyn-born rapper Jay-Z. We hope Neuberger is enjoying further expanding his music taste now he’s retired.

Read the ‘Lose Yourself’ judgment in full here:

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