Every once in a while, and with more and more frequency it seems, a ridiculously obscure songwriter hears a major hit song that reminds him of his own work and tries to sue his way up the ladder and into the fortune his own career obviously didn’t give him.

Did that sound snarky?

If it did, it wouldn’t be the first injection of snark in the musical plagiarism case Belgian violinist Raymond Vincent is bringing against rapper Eminem. A December appeals court in Brussels rejected Vincent’s claim that Eminem’s 2001 hit “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” stole a part of Vincent’s 1968 composition “Daydream,” calling the sound of the two songs played side-by-side a “cacophony,” Reuters reported Wednesday.

A cacophony, according to the dictionary, is a complete discord of sound, like car horns in traffic. Ouch.

For the full effect of this verbal ear-battering, let’s start from the beginning. In 2001, Eminem comes out with his slightly agro musical tirade against his mother and his ex-wife. White suburban kids feel tough for once. In 2002, Vincent hears it and contacts the Belgian authors’ and publishers’ society SABAM, claiming that the melody in Eminem’s song is stolen from an eight-measure piece of “Daydream,” performed by his 1968 band The Wallace Collection. Vincent wants to block royalties. SABAM agrees, saying Eminem’s song has “flagrant similarities” to Vincent’s oldie. In 2005, Vincent takes Eminem’s publishers to court with SAMAB’s opinion, and a Belgian regional court backs Vincent.

However, snarkiness ensued in December 2007 when Eminem’s people appealed the decision to a higher Belgian court. This court was not so eager to accept the SABAM committee’s word, saying “It is very clear that nothing has been borrowed.” Further, it slammed SABAM’s opinion, calling it “poorly substantiated” and “not based on any concrete demonstration by the six experts allegedly consulted by SABAM.”

The court even went on to slam Vincent’s song, saying “‘Daydream’ in its entirety is inspired by Tchaikovsky.”

The Belgian court didn’t go this far, but I’ve heard the song in question, and I know what they were really trying to say. It was something like this: “‘Daydream’ is a typical example of the kind of insipid hippie endeavor one only appreciates when one is high out of one’s mind and completely unaware of any need for originality in ‘60s wishy-washy flower-child mushroom music, and this court, and certainly Tchaikovsky, would be appalled to have its mediocrity flaunted in its face for any duration of time, good day.”

One of Eminem’s publishers, Joel Martin, summed it up, telling Reuters, “I was in the studio with Jeff and Marshall. It was absurd that they used any portion of an obscure Belgian song [written] before Marshall was born. And if rappers were to use old records, they would use the records. They don't steal a melody.”

Perhaps Vincent will feel more appreciated when the whole case is over and Eminem goes into the studio to write a rap about him. Let’s see if he decides to sample any record in particular.

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