The trial to decide whether Clive Palmer ripped off a 1980s rock classic to promote his political party will be heard entirely online after his lawyer raised concerns about an unfair playing field due to border restrictions between NSW and Queensland.
It means the judge, witnesses and barristers for Mr Palmer and Universal Music, who is suing the mining magnate for copyright infringement, will all appear remotely at the trial set to be held later this year.
Universal is seeking royalties from the Palmer United Party founder for what it says was unauthorised use of the Twisted Sister song ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’, a version of which Mr Palmer used in his ads before last year’s federal election.
The tune, called ‘Australia’s Not Gonna Cop It’, was the anthem for his now named United Australia Party’s multimillion-dollar advertising blitz.
Mr Palmer, however, is set to argue at trial he did not believe any copyright was attached to the chorus of Twisted Sister song as it was “derived” from Christmas carol ‘Oh Come All Ye Faithful’.
All three songs are set to be played to competing expert witnesses, enlisted by both Universal and Mr Palmer, before the trial.
On Monday, Justice Anna Katzmann told the Federal Court there would be complications in holding a trial split between NSW and the sunshine state, with interstate witnesses not allowed to enter the Sydney courtroom.
Mr Palmer’s barrister Edmund Robinson aired his client’s concerns after COVID-19 protocols informing his home state’s border closure had “changed dramatically” in recent weeks.
The border between the two states will remain closed until NSW records zero cases of community transmission for an extended period, it emerged last week.
“My client does have some concerns with the trial proceeding at all, as things currently stand,” Mr Robinson said.
He said Mr Palmer was worried that Universal and its Sydney-based legal team and witnesses would have an advantage of being able to attend court together while he and his team would be stuck in Queensland.
“In my submission it does put my client at a disadvantage,” Mr Robinson said.
He suggested the matter be adjourned until after border restrictions eased, but Justice Katzmann determined to hold the entire trial online.
Patrick Flynn, acting on behalf of Universal, had earlier spoke against an adjournment, saying his client was a “little anxious” to get the proceedings underway as soon as possible as there had already been delays caused by the pandemic.