Australian Politician Loses Over $1M in Twisted Sister Lawsuit
Australian politician Clive Palmer has been ordered to pay $1.5 million (AUD — Australian dollars, meaning a little over $1.1 million in U.S. dollars) to Universal Music for damages over the unauthorized use of Twisted Sister's hit song "We're Not Gonna Take It," having reworked some of the song's lyrics to fit a 2019 political ad.
In an election bid to re-enter Australian Parliament, Palmer's ad featured the lyrics, "Australia ain't gonna cop it, no Australia's not gonna cop it, Aussies not gonna cop it anymore," sung to the cadence of Twisted Sister's Stay Hungry mega-hit.
Prior to co-opting the song's melody for his own political aim, one of Palmer's representatives approached Universal Music, who acquired the publishing rights to the song in 2015, about copyright approval.
The politician's team, however, declined to pay the $150,000 fee to use the song, as reported by The Guardian. The representative issued a counter offer during this time, suggesting a fee of $35,000 instead, though no money was exchanged between the two parties for use of the track.
During the trial, which was held in October, the defense claimed that the band was "swindling its hit song from a famous Christmas carol," in reference to the hymn, "O Come All Ye Faithful" and made attempts to prove this was true, per Blabbermouth.
On Twisted Sister's A Twisted Christmas collection of holiday covers, the band covered "O Come All Ye Faithful" in a similar style to "We're Not Gonna Take It" and, amid the trial, Palmer's attorney played a mashup of the two songs from a 2014 Chicago Christmas concert dubbed 'Dee Snider's Rock & Roll Christmas Tale.'
ABC News noted that this argument was later withdrawn and, instead, Palmer and his team invoked parody and satire as their defense under the Copyright Act.
Palmer also alleged the lyrics were written in "deep contemplation" at 3AM while in bed, where he turned to a bedside notepad to write his lyrics down. The note was subsequently thrown in the garbage by his staff, claimed Palmer, who is a billionaire businessman in the mining industry.
Federal court justice Anna Katzmann was critical of Palmer in her ruling, in which she called the politician's claim that he created the jingle independently of Twister Sister's song "ludicrous" and referred to him as a "most unimpressive witness." Furthermore, Katzmann said Palmer presented "false evidence" and created a story as a means to clear him of any legal wrongdoing.
"I do not accept that Mr. Palmer honestly believed at any relevant time that his use of the copyright works was lawful," wrote Katzmann in her ruling.
She also wrote (via ABC) that "Mr. Palmer's use of [the song] was opportunistic" and that "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," affirmed Katzmann.
Snider celebrated the ruling on Twitter, exclaiming, "HALLELUJAH!! Just found out that the copyright infringement of 'We're Not Gonna Take It' by 'politician' Clive Palmer in Australia has been decided MAJORLY in favor of myself as a writer and [Universal Music Group] as publishers! WE'RE NOT GONNA TAKE COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT ANY MORE!!"
In addition to paying the exorbitant fine for damages, Palmer must also pay all costs to remove all copies of his song, as well as any videos containing it, from the internet.