New Zealand: Court overturns ban on 2014 political parody song

26 October 2016


New Zealand’s Court of Appeal has upheld the High Court’s decision to reverse the ban placed on Darren Watson’s song, ‘Planet Key’, and its accompanying animated video by Jeremy Jones, which were released during New Zealand’s 2014 general election and seen as political advertising rather than a parody on Prime Minister John Key, reported New Zealand Herald on 20 October 2016.

The artists are “happy” with the outcome, but also “frustrated” with the two-year fight, which included them being threatened with referral to the police.

The two men said in a statement:

There is also a sense of frustration at this point, as while the judgment vindicates the men’s actions in 2014, it cannot reverse the fact that the Commission’s actions prevented their works from being broadcast at the time they were most relevant. Ultimately though, they are hopeful that the decision might mean that other artists seeking to express their political views will receive more liberal treatment than they did, or even that the outcome might compel much-needed reform of the electoral law.

The Court of Appeal said the two men were “simply expressing their own political views” and not representing a political party.

Song and video deemed political advertising
The country’s Electoral Commission told Watson in 2014 to stop selling or promoting the song as they viewed it as promotional political material and threatened him with a $10,000 fine if he continued to sell the song via iTunes without a promoter statement, calling it a breach of the Electoral Act and the Broadcasting Act.

Watson took down the song and took the commission to court. In April 2015 the High Court ruled against the commission’s ban. Justice Denis Clifford said that such a ban “would impose limits on the right of freedom of expression of the plaintiffs and New Zealand citizens more generally in a manner which, in my view, cannot be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society”, reported Radio New Zealand on 3 April 2015.

The commission appealed the decision saying there was a lack of clarity around how things were defined concerning the interpretation of election advertisements and programmes, but the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s decision. The court told the commission it should be more rights-sensitive in its judgment and ordered it to pay Watson’s costs.

“The Commission will be studying the Court’s decision in order to reflect it in advice and guidance to parties, candidates and third parties on their obligations in respect of electoral matters for future electoral events,” the commission said in a statement.

‘Planet Key’
Published on Darren Watson’s Official Channel on on 17 November 2015

Photo: Screen grab from ‘Planet Key’ video


» New Zealand Herald – 20 October 2016:
Planet Key should not have been banned, Court of Appeal says

» Radio New Zealand – 20 October 2016:
Ruling against ‘Planet Key’ ban upheld

» Radio New Zealand – 3 April 2015:
Planet Key musician ‘vindicated’

More from Freemuse

» 19 September 2014: New Zealand: Musician takes ban of his satirical song to court

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