Before Craig was found to have defamed Jordan Williams, the former leader of the Conservative Party filed legal papers suing him and Whale Oil blog founder Cameron Slater for publishing one of his poems.
The piece of writing in question, dubbed the “love poem”, was well documented during the four-week defamation jury trial which concluded with a $1.27 million verdict against the politician.
Craig argued his poem was private and the publication of it by Williams when he showed a copy to Slater and then Slater when he put it on his blog was a breach of copyright.
And because Whale Oil earns revenue through paid content and advertising, Craig argued he should be awarded damages in the sum of $3000 per month it was on the site plus GST.
He also wanted $3000 for the “flagrant” infringement of copyright, an injunction preventing the continued publication of the poem and a written apology.
The total invoice came to $15,000.
But at a civil hearing at the Auckland District Court today, Judge Mary Elizabeth Sharp heard submissions from Craig, Williams’ lawyer Ali Romanos and Slater’s counsel Brian Henry.
The judge granted Slater’s and Williams’ strike out applications, meaning the proceedings won’t continue.
Judge Sharp said she’d seen no evidence either defendant had received any monetary gains from publishing the poem, although she didn’t rule on whether there were fair dealings.
She said allowing the proceedings to continue would “bring the administration of justice into disrepute among right-thinking people” given Craig’s “real argument” was breach of confidence and his reputation.
“This is a vexatious proceeding.
It has been brought for a collateral purpose.”
Judge Sharp said she didn’t believe the process of court was being “fairly or honestly” used by the proceedings and it was being brought for an “ulterior and improper purpose”.
“It is manifestly groundless and without foundation. It serves no useful purpose, even if there has been a technical infringement by the defendants.”
That is a damning judgment from Judge Sharp.
From my perspective as someone who takes a keen interest in copyright law, Judge Sharp is correct. While the publication of a love poem without permission is a technical breach of copyright, trying to claim a commercial loss of $15,000 from it is farcical.