I just wanted to post an update on the long running ‘Planet Key’ saga. Regular readers of the blog through 2014 and 2015 will be aware of how it all unfolded, but finally we have what should ultimately amount to satisfactory closure on the matter, with this week’s release of the Court of Appeal decision.
I include below last Thursday’s press release from songwriter Darren Watson and video designer Jeremy Jones in the wake of the Court of Appeal judgment (made in their favour), but firstly, here’s a quick refresher on roughly what happened … it went something like this:
The Electoral Commission banned Watson’s ‘Planet Key’ single in the lead-up to, and following on from, the 2014 General Election, effectively labelling it political advertising. Rather than the straightforward no-holds-barred slice of political comment it quite clearly was. Watson and Jones then took the matter to the High Court, with Justice Clifford eventually ruling in their favour, and more crucially, in favour of the principle of freedom of artistic expression. The Electoral Commission – in its infinite flawed wisdom – then decided to appeal the High Court ruling, which took it into the realm of (the surreal) the Court of Appeal, and this week’s final judgment, some two years after the controversy began.
Here’s the press release in full:
COURT OF APPEAL UPHOLDS PLANET KEY RULING
The Court of Appeal has found that the release of the satirical "Planet Key" song and music video made by musician Darren Watson and video designer Jeremy Jones before the 2014 general election did not breach the Electoral Act or the Broadcasting Act, contrary to the view of the Electoral Commission. The Commission had advised Watson and Jones to remove their works from the internet and had told broadcasters that they could not play "Planet Key" on air. Non-compliance could result in a referral of the matter to Police.
Watson and Jones are happy with the result, which they hope will bring an end to their lengthy struggle with the Commission, saying that they welcome the Court's view that "the Commission's interpretation of the legislation limits the right to free expression more than is necessary to achieve the legislative purpose and more than can be justified in a free and democratic society."
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 that they did, or even that the outcome might compel much-needed reform of the electoral law.