One of Australia’s richest men has been ordered to pay A$1.5m to Universal Music for using the Twisted Sister song “We’re Not Gonna Take It” to spearhead the most expensive election campaign in the country’s history.
Clive Palmer, a mining magnate and founder of the United Australia Party, was sued by Universal for refusing to pay a A$150,000 (US$117,000) licensing fee to use an altered version of the popular song in the 2019 election.
Australia’s Federal Court on Friday found the 67-year-old businessman had infringed on the band’s copyright, saying it was “ludicrous” of the billionaire to suggest his version was created independently of Twisted Sister’s 1984 hit.
“I do not accept that Mr Palmer honestly believed at any relevant time that his use of the copyright works was lawful,” wrote Justice Anna Katzmann in her judgment.
“He saw political and personal advantage in both its notoriety or popularity and the message it conveyed and he thought that he could get away with using it merely by altering some of the words. He was wrong.”
Dee Snider, Twisted Sister’s lead singer and songwriter, told the court last year that Palmer’s version of the song was “awful” and that the billionaire was “not good for my heavy metal image”.
Snider celebrated the court ruling on Friday, writing on Twitter: “HALLELUJAH!! . . . WE’RE NOT GONNA TAKE COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT ANY MORE!!”
Palmer, who has a A$9.8bn fortune, according to the AFR rich list, recorded a version of the song titled “Australia’s Not Gonna Cop It” to promote the UAP in the election campaign two years ago. He claimed to have penned the words of his jingle in 2018 while sitting at home “deep in contemplation” ahead of the vote and that had nothing to do with Twisted Sister’s song.
Recordings of Palmer’s jingle formed part of a more than A$80m UAP advertising campaign, with videos broadcast on television more than 18,600 times. The clips were viewed more than 17.5m times on YouTube and Facebook, according to evidence heard during the trial.
Palmer had sought a licence from Universal to use the track, but balked at paying the $150,000 fee.
He initially denied “We’re Not Gonna Take It” was an original work because its melody was the same as the opening bars of the hymn “O Come All Ye Faithful”, and argued that UAP’s recordings and videos were fair dealing for the purpose of parody, according to evidence given in the case.
Palmer told Australian media he could consider an appeal.
Despite record campaign spending, Palmer’s UAP failed to win a single seat in parliament in the 2019 election.