The 5 year controversy about Eminem's track “Cleanin' Out My Closet” and Raymond Vincent's “Daydream” seems to be nearing the end.
What's the controversy about?
This particular case has raised questions about the copyright law and its interpretation in Belgium. In the United States, the Plaintiff must prove that the defendant had access to the work and that the works are substantially similar. It is understood that, in the case of music, there will be songs that are alike, as long as the songs aren't copied and directly lifted from another song.
What's unique in this case, due to the fact it centers in Belgium, is that the lawyers have stated that the defendant does not have to prove that they (meaning Eminem in this case) had access to the other song (Daydream), especially when the songs are somewhat alike. The situation is that Raymond Vincent's “Daydream” was written before Eminem (Marshall Mathers) was born – and on top of that, was written in another country.
Raymond Vincent Takes Action Against Eminem
In 2002, Raymond Vincent contacted the Belgian Society of Authors, Composers, and Publishers (SABAM) and stated that he believes Eminem's song had broken the copyright rule and had a portion of Vincent's song in his song.
In 2003, Vincent again petitions to the SABAM. This time his goal was to block royalties for Eminem's song. SABAM reviewed the claim. As a result of this, BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated, a collecting society for composers' copyrights) sends a letter to SABAM noting their opinion of the infringement after they review and comparison of the two songs.
In this letter from BMI, they declare that the song “Daydream” has three different themes. The first theme was composed by Raymond Vincent while the other two themes were inspired by the second movement of a Tchaikovsky string quartet “Swan Lake”. The committee, after deliberation, found that a part of “Cleanin' Out My Closet” was very similar to a section of “DayDream”. At MIDEM (Marché International du Disque et de l'Edition Musicale, the world's largest music industry trade fair), SABAM's executive director claimed that his organization offers a service which provides an expert opinion about the music.
In 2005, Raymond Vincent and BMG appeared before the Brussels Regional Court. The court reviewed SABAM's opinion. In December 2007, the appeals court wrote, “It is very clear that nothing has been borrowed, particularly when the two pieces are superimposed, which makes the difference between the two very noticeable, producing a cacophony,”
The court has also stated that SABAM's opinion had “no binding value”, that the opinion was “poorly substantiated”, and that the opinion was “not based on any concrete demonstration by the six experts allegedly consulted by SABAM.”
Another interesting point that the court wrote was that Raymond Vincent's song Daydream's first theme was also inspired by Tachaikovsky, not just the second and third themes.
Reaction from Eight Mile Style Music
“I was in the studio with Jeff and Marshall,” says Joel Martin of Eight Mile Style Music. “It was absurd that they used any portion of an obscure Belgian song (written) before Marshall Mathers was born. And if rappers were to use old records, they would use the records. They don't steal a melody.”
Also, Martin says that some societies like JASRAC (Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers) had stopped sending accountings and payments as a result of SABAM's letter. Mentioned was that SABAM believes it was in their rights to send out the letters. In their view, The Belgian Ministry of Economics requires that SABAM protect the right's of their members around the whole world. They feel that must be strong with their actions, even if it means that they have to go to a face-to-face meeting with another association. They believe they are in the right to withhold the royalties on a song until the dispute about the rights of one of their members is finished and resolved.
What do you feel about this situation? Who was in the right: Eminem and Eight Mile Style Music or Raymond Vincent and SABAM?