I really didn’t plan on commenting on this. Various personalities on the Internet seem to be doing a fine job at covering the various issues tangled in this story.
However, this twisted mess recently ventured into my world: issues of copyright.
Now, I realize it’s pretty silly to expect someone who violates the legal rights of entire groups of people to respect copyright. But, Mike Huckabee, Ms Davis and their crew of ne’er-do-wells appear to have done just that.
Check this out:
Sounded great. Quite dramatic. She even managed tears.
According to TMZ, cease and desist orders have been sent.
Thing is, I can’t see how a politician would be ignorant of permission issues, especially after the media tornado surrounding Donald Trump’s use of Neil Young’s “Rocking in the Free World” (presumably) without Mr. Young’s knowledge. In fact:
Neil’s rep tells us Trump never got permission to use the song for his candidacy announcement, and furthermore — Neil, a Libertarian and Canadian citizen, is NOT down with Trump’s campaign. We’re told he’s actually backing Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
But let’s talk about copyright for a moment, shall we?
If I were in charge of any kind of campaign (ha. That’ll be the day), I’d tread very carefully when it came to selecting music and obtaining the license to use them. Reason? This is an activity that can backfire. Big time.
For example, according to Rolling Stone, some campaigns get permission, but then staffers muck it up.
In 2004, Howard Dean’s staff decided “We Can,” a song by country star LeAnn Rimes about achieving the impossible, was the perfect soundtrack for his presidential bid. So Joe Trippi, Dean’s campaign manager, secured the rights and contacted Rimes for permission – she agreed, as long as it was a cover version. Yet almost every time Dean walked into a packed stadium or ballroom, U2’s “Beautiful Day” was playing overhead. “I’d go up to the advance person and be like, ‘What the fuck? That’s not our message,'” Trippi says. “We did it right, and I still couldn’t make sure that damn song played.”
Sigh. At least they tried.
That said, just grabbing a song and running with it can trigger some very bad publicity. For example, when Scott Walker used a Dropkick Murphys song, this happened:
Mitt Romney evidently used a K’Naan song and K’Naan threatened legal action.
John McCain used Jackson Browne, Foo Fighters, and John Mellencamp melodies and all objected. Browne sued… causing embarrassment and back pedaling from the campaign.
What bothers Browne almost as much as McCain’s lack of permission, the lawsuit alleges, is that using “Running On Empty” suggests that Browne supports McCain’s presidential campaign and the Republican platform. “In light of Jackson Browne’s lifelong commitment to Democratic ideals and political candidates, the misappropriation of Jackson Browne’s endorsement is entirely reprehensible, and I have no doubt that a jury will agree,” Browne’s lawyer Lawrence Iser said.
Other politicians who did this, and received swift rebuke from the copyright holder, include:
- Ronald Reagan
- George W. Bush
- Paul Ryan
- Michelle Bachman
- Charlie Crist
- Sarah Palin
- Barack Obama
- And probably more
Then we have this:
Either way, the impact of such unauthorized use can be devastating for a songwriter. “The artist gets drawn into the question of whether or not to take any action, and run the risk of giving the politicians some additional publicity, or [allowing] the public for one second to think that someone like Neil Young was endorsing Donald Trump,” says Jon Landau, Springsteen’s longtime manager. “It’s kind of a reverse endorsement trap – Ronald Reagan declares Bruce as one of his own, and then Bruce has to either let it stand or actively disassociate. When the confusion gets big enough, most artists will, one way or the other, step in.”
So yeah… for Huckabee and his clan to cite ignorance on this subject would be a dubious claim at best. And to not respect the rights of a copyright holder tells me a lot about what they think of the artists who create the songs they so blatantly steal.
So, back to Survivor member Frankie Sullivan (and co-author of the song). According to the Daily Beast:
Sullivan previously sued Newt Gingrich for playing “Eye of the Tiger” at campaign events without authorization.
Rolling stone has an interesting theory on why this continues to happen:
“Why does it keep happening? I would say arrogance. Or because [candidates] want to use music in order to associate [with] fans of the artists whose music they’re using, and they think they can’t get permission,” Iser says. “What’s that expression? ‘It’s better to beg forgiveness than to ask [only] to get turned down.'”
It will be interesting to watch this scenario unfold.
Hat tip to Penny Pederson for bringing this to my attention. Thanks!