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Life Arts    H4'ed 9/12/15

The Sad Song of Political Campaigns, Music Theft and Copyright Infringement

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Theft of music
Theft of music
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Stories of recent copyright issues involving the unauthorized use of music by political campaigns have hit the fan lately. ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) offers a wealth of info about these issues for those uninitiated in the wilderness of music copyright. ASCAP is a not-for-profit performance rights organization which protects its members' musical copyrights. It monitors use and then compensating members.

ASCAP notes that political campaigns need to "contact the song's publisher and possibly the artist's record label to negotiate the appropriate licenses."

ASCAP also warns that even if the campaign has appropriate copyright licenses, "if an artist does not want his or her music associated with the campaign, he or she may still be able to take legal action," under one or more of the following claims: Right of Publicity (in which image protection is provided for celebrities), The Lanham Act (which addresses confusion/dilution of trademark), or False Endorsement (in which use of the artist's work may imply endorsement.)

ASCAP says, Music possesses a unique power to inspire, motivate and energize a campaign."

Music associated with previous presidential campaigns include:

"God Save Great Washington" (parody of "God Save the King") - George Washington

"Happy Days are Here Again" (by Milton Ager and Jack Yellen, ASCAP members) - FDR

"They Like Ike" (by Irving Berlin, ASCAP member) Dwight Eisenhower

"Signed, Sealed and Delivered" (by Stevie Wonder, ASCAP member) - President Obama

According to, "Copyright experts say you don't have to ask an artist's permission to play a popular song at your rallies -- as long as the venue where you play it has what's known as a blanket license from the performing rights organizations ASCAP and BMI. Peter DiCola, who teaches law at Northwestern, says most public venues do have those licenses. But small or unconventional venues may not."

When Mike Huckabee and Kim Davis used Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" during a rally for Davis' release from jail, Survivor strongly objected. According to CNN, co-writer Jim Peterik said he was "gobsmacked... We were not asked about this at all."

Peterik tweeted, "I have not authorized the use of Eye of the Tiger for use by Kim Davis and my publisher will issue a C&D. This does not reflect my views."

Co-writer, Frankie Sullivan posted on FB:

"NO! We did not grant Kim Davis any rights to use "My Tune -The Eye Of The Tiger." I would not grant her the rights to use Charmin! C'mom Mike, you are not The Donald but you can do better than that - See Ya really SoooooooonnnnnnN!!!!!!"

Salon interviewed intellectual property lawyer Joel Schoenfeld, a former counsel for the Record Industry Association of American and now an attorney at the New York firm Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, who noted, "when that clerk in Kentucky and Huckabee were on an impromptu stage in front of a courthouse, I'd say the odds are that courthouse doesn't have a blanket license. I'm sure their use of "Eye of the Tiger" was a copyright infringement. Whether it will be enforced is something else."

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Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing since she was a hippie. She began writing for OpEdNews in Feb, 2004. She became a Senior Editor in August 2012 and Managing Editor in January, (more...)

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