Presidential Hopefuls Taking Heat for Potential Copyright Infringement

It seems that every election, at least one of the candidates seems to end up in legal hot water over music used by their campaign.  Republican hopefuls Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have both been asked to stop using popular songs in their campaign.  Musicians, including Jackson Browne, Don Henley and David Byrne, have taken many political campaigns to court over the years for using their copyrighted songs without permission.  For instance Newt Gingrich is facing a copyright infringement lawsuit for his use of the Rocky III theme song, “Eye of the Tiger.”  Jackson Browne  sued the Ohio Republican Party for using the song “Running on Empty” in a campaign ad for John McCain four years ago.

The interesting aspect of the current lawsuit is that Gingrich did not use the music in an advertisement, but rather only at personal appearances, making it different from existing cases.  Copyright experts say you don’t have to ask an artist’s permission to play a popular song at public rallies — as long as the venue where you play the music has, what is known as, a blanket license from the performing rights organizations ASCAP and BMI.  Most public venues do have those licenses, but smaller or more unconventional venues may not, including some cited in the complaint filed in the Survivor lawsuit.

David Byrne, the front-man for Talking Heads sued former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist for using “Road to Nowhere” in an ad for Crist’s Senate campaign.

The Silversun Pickups have asked Mitt Romney’s campaign to stop using their song “Panic Switch” at events.

Not to be left out, the soul duo Sam and Dave did send a cease and desist letter four years ago to Barack Obama’s campaign, demanding that the Democrat stop using the song “Hold On, I’m Coming” during his first run for the White House.  Even though Dave Prater has been dead since 1988, his copyrights extend well beyond his death.

How Can I Help You?

If you are uncertain about whether your use of a copyrighted song or other work is considered fair use, it is imperative to consult with an experienced copyright attorney.  If you need help to protect your copyrighted work or to file a copyright, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities.  Connect with me on Google +


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