Jay Has A Legal Opinion

Dear Political Campaigns --

Since most of you are lawyers, or have lawyers (or SHOULD have lawyers), I didn't think this was going to be necessary, but apparently I was wrong, so let me just say this:

You are not permitted to use other people's songs and music without their permission unless they are way dead. Like a hundred years dead. Beethoven dead.

Yes, this means even if you really like the song, or even if it's totally your nickname (I'm looking at you Sarah "Barracuda" Palin). Because, you see, if they are still alive*, the people who wrote the songs and the people who sing the songs are supposed to get paid when you play them.

Also, in case you didn't realize this, musicians and song writers are artists, and a lot of the time artists get a little...pissy when you try to use their stuff to promote things they don't necessarily like. Like, for example:

1. trickle down economics (see, e.g., Bruce Springsteen's objections to Ronald Reagan's use of "Born in the USA),

2. or energy reform that involves drilling in the Alaskan wilderness (see, e.g., Jackson Browne's objection to John McCain's commercial featuring "Running on Empty"),

3. or economic policy that provides tax breaks only for the top 3% of taxpayers (see, e.g., John McCain again, for his illicit use of John Cougar/John Cougar Mellencamp/John Mellencamp's "Pink Houses"),

4. or yourself (see, e.g., Heart's recent objections to Sarah Palin's use of "Barracuda").

I know! They're so demanding, what with their "artistic integrity" and "ownership of intellectual property" and "rights of publicity", but since y'all are supposed to be setting an example, perhaps you could start by, you know, asking permission for use of the songs, instead of just ripping them off.


P.S. Funny how all of these examples are of Republicans, right? It's not because I don't like Republicans (although I don't. I mean politically. Personally, I have no problems with Republicans. Some of my best friends are Republicans. Wait...no, they aren't. But some of my friends are! Good ones! Very friendly acquaintances!**), but because I couldn't find any examples involving Democrats. Not because Democrats do a better job of clearing their music rights (although they may), but because, I suspect, most musicians are liberals. (Except Neil Young, of course, and some country artists.) So when Bill Clinton wants to use Fleetwood Mac, or example, Fleetwood Mac either says "sure, cool" right up front, or else they don't get their undies in a twist when Bill does it without permission.

P.P.S. Ironic Moment Alert: As I was driving this morning thinking about this post, what should come on NPR but a clip about John McCain's rally in Wisconsin yesterday, where they were playing the song "Who Says You Can't Go Home" by Bon Jovi. Yes, that would be the same Bon Jovi who is having a fund raising dinner in his house for Barack Obama.

*or within the applicable term of the copyright statutes, but I couldn't figure out a fun way to say that. sigh. Lawyers, man.

**in all seriousness, I do have really good friends that are Republicans. I don't pick my friends by political affiliation.


It seems like a calculated risk. They probably figured the extent of the fine they'd have to pay and went ahead and played the song. In that case, much easier to apologize afterward than get permission beforehand.

On the other hand, if they broadcast it, the fines can be hella expensive so that seems... what's the word... the word that means... prohibitive.

(That's a glimpse directly at the inner workings of my brain, right there.)

Sunday, September 7, 2008 at 10:45:00 AM EDT  

I forget which comedian said that if this trend keeps up (liberal music artists denying anybody the rights to use their songs), pretty soon politicians will be limited to public domain songs, like "Jimmy Crack Corn."

I'm always amused that the campaigns think that somebody would be remotely interested in their ideas if they only played the right song. Then again, people ARE pretty stupid. "Hey, they're playing that song I like, maybe I should vote for these folks!"

Sunday, September 7, 2008 at 5:58:00 PM EDT  

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