Clive Palmer has been ordered to pay Universal Music $1.5m in damages over the “unauthorised” use of a version of the hit 1980s song We’re Not Gonna Take It by glam metal band Twisted Sister in a political ad.
On Friday, federal court justice Anna Katzmann found Palmer’s political jingle Aussies Not Gonna Cop It, recorded as part of his multimillion-dollar advertising blitz during the 2019 federal election campaign, was a “substantial” reproduction of the Twisted Sister song.
The Palmer version of the song changed the lyrics to: “Australia ain’t gonna cop it, no Australia’s not gonna cop it, Aussies not gonna cop it any more.”
Palmer claimed he had written the words of the jingle while “in deep contemplation” in bed at 3am on a notepad he kept beside his bed, something he said “creative people” do. He told the court the note was then thrown “in the trash” by his staff.
But the trial also heard a representative for Palmer had originally sought copyright approval from Universal before baulking at the $150,000 fee.
In a scathing judgement, Katzmann rejected Palmer’s claims, finding that it was “ludicrous” of the mining billionaire to suggest his song was “created independently” of the Twisted Sister hit.
She found him to be “a most unimpressive witness” and that his evidence was “at times incredible”. She said Palmer gave “false evidence” during the trial including “concocting a story to exculpate himself”, indicating “that the need for both punishment and deterrence is high”.
“I do not accept that Mr Palmer honestly believed at any relevant time that his use of the copyright works was lawful,” she wrote in the judgment.
Katzmann said there was no doubt Palmer “intended to, and did, derive a political benefit from the unauthorised use of the copyright works”, and found the mining magnate had shown “flagrant disregard” for Universal’s ownership of the song.
She labelled his conduct in pushing ahead with the music despite not obtaining copyright approval as “high-handed and contemptuous”, and said his behaviour after receiving a cease and desist letter from Universal was “contumelious” – that is, scornful or insolent.
Katzmann ordered Palmer and his United Australia Party to pay Universal a total of $1.5m plus interest and damages for the song, as well as permanently restraining him from reproducing the song.
She also ordered Palmer and his representatives to remove all versions of the song and accompanying video from the internet.
During the trial Snider had given evidence that the use of the song by Palmer was “not good for my heavy metal image”, and on Friday he Tweeted “HALLELUJAH” after learning about the verdict.
“WE’RE NOT GONNA TAKE COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT ANY MORE!!,” he wrote.
In a statement, Adam Simpson, a solicitor acting for Universal Music, said the judgement “sends a strong message about the unauthorised use of music, and that Mr Palmer’s conduct was blatant and entirely unacceptable”.