Culture

The Liberal Party Could Actually Be Fined For That Embarrassing Daft Punk Dance

Looks like the Liberal Party tried to celebrate and dance for free.

Last Sunday the WA branch of the Liberal Party held their campaign launch for the upcoming state election. Like most political campaign launches it was a thoroughly boring event, until they dropped Daft Punk’s ‘One More Time’ and awkwardly clapped along on stage.

But Junkee can reveal that one cringey moment could end up costing the Liberal party a serious amount of money, as well as their dignity. It turns out they didn’t secure the required public performing license to play the song, most likely leaving them without the rights to pump Daft Punk.

Under Australian copyright law organisations and individuals who want to play music at a public function have to secure a public performance license. Public performance licenses are managed by APRA AMCOS, the industry body representing musicians.

In 2015 Jimmy Barnes publicly criticised Reclaim Australia for playing Cold Chisel’s classic song ‘Khe Sanh’ at their rallies. John Schumann, John Farnham and Midnight Oil have also criticised political organisations for using their music in public events.

At the time APRA AMCOS’ head of member services, Dean Ormston, wrote that “In order to publicly perform music at an event, organisers must secure a licence from APRA AMCOS or directly from the songwriter. Due to various restrictions on licences, APRA AMCOS would not typically grant permission for a political rally unless individual songwriters specifically allowed it.

“Therefore, publicly performing a song without this licence can amount to infringement of copyright. Even if a licence is granted, the particular circumstances of use may still be considered a breach of the songwriter’s ‘moral rights’.”

The punishment for breaching copyright law includes fines of up to $60,000 and five years in jail.

The Liberal Party launch was held at the University of Western Australia’s Octagon Theatre. APRA AMCOS grants universities an “umbrella license” for their own events, but this doesn’t extend to casual events hosted by other groups on campus.

A UWA staff member confirmed that the university doesn’t have a license for events hosted by separate organisations, such as the Liberal Party, and event organisers have to apply for one themselves. APRA AMCOS told Junkee that they do not license any political parties and that the parties have to seek permission directly from the rights holders, if they are using a venue without a performance license.

Junkee could not ascertain who the relevant rights holder for Daft Punk is in Australia. While they are represented by Universal Music Publishing, the company said they weren’t the repertoire owner in this instance.

A spokesperson for the WA Liberal Party said they would investigate whether permission had been sought and received, but never got back to Junkee. A staffer for WA Premier Colin Barnett, who arrived on stage at the launch as ‘One More Time’ blasted out of the speakers, said the issue was a matter for the party organisation, and pointed to WA Labor’s use of AC/DC hit ‘TNT’ for its launch, also on Sunday.

Labor’s launch was held at Perth Arena. As a live music venue Perth Arena holds a public performance license for music, covering the Labor Party’s use of ‘TNT’.

It’s not the first time a political party has gotten caught out by alleged copyright infringement. A couple of years ago former NSW Premier Mike Baird had a video pulled off YouTube because it featured music from Taylor Swift and R.E.M without permission.

The Productivity Commission recently published a report calling for copyright laws to be weakened in Australia. The report’s recommendations, which include expanding ‘fair use’ provisions (allowing copyrighted work such as music to be used more broadly without permission from rights holders), have been heavily criticised by artists.

It’s unclear at this stage whether APRA AMCOS or Daft Punk’s rights holders (whoever they are) will follow up the issue with the WA Liberal Party, but it’s safe to say that that this time around they didn’t Get Lucky.