Jackson Browne Sues McCain For Using His Song In An Ad Without Permission

from the legal-complexities dept

What is it with politicians who position themselves being big pro-copyright supporters being caught potentially infringing on copyright themselves? Singer Jackson Browne, who is apparently a supporter of Senator Obama's presidential campaign, has sued Senator McCain for allegedly using a Browne song in an advertisement without permission. Of course, this isn't as clear cut as you might believe. McCain's campaign points out that the ad isn't actually from the campaign. And, while it's true that there's no compulsory license for pairing a song with a video, this is almost certainly infringement -- but Browne's claim of an implied endorsement may not get very far, because there are ways that it's quite likely that McCain could make use of Browne's song without Browne's permission.

Welcome to the bizarre, arcane, and confusing world of copyright licenses.

Depending on whether or not Browne's music is licensed to a performance rights organization like ASCAP, BMI or SESAC (and chances are, they are), McCain's campaign could most likely pay a royalty to them to use one of Browne's songs at an event (if not in a commercial). And, since there is compulsory licensing on covers of songs, in theory, McCain's campaign could have someone else cover Browne's song at a campaign stop, and Browne wouldn't have much he could do to stop it (again, other than make a stink out of it, getting McCain to back down). While it does seem as though there is an infringement claim here (and McCain's campaign knows it's not wise to turn this into a big deal), this story does highlight just how ridiculous various music licensing has become these days. Though, still, in general you would think that any political campaign (or its surrogates) would at least be a little careful to avoid using music from someone who supports the other guy -- as it's just asking for a PR headache.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    hexjones, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 7:27am

    The twist is, the song is used in an "anti-Obama" ad. The song, "Running On Empty" implies that Obama can't back up his claims or something. Browne doesn't want his own song associated with Obama in that way.

     

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  2.  
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    Comboman, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 7:31am

    Stresand Effect?

    Though, still, in general you would think that any political campaign (or its surrogates) would at least be a little careful to avoid using music from someone who supports the other guy -- as it's just asking for a PR headache.

    Are you kidding? This is more publicity than McCain has gotten in months.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Matt Bennett, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 7:32am

    "What is it with politicians who position themselves being big pro-copyright supporters being caught potentially infringing on copyright themselves?"

    Does McCain have particular history of being a Big Content crony? Most senators have voted for at least one Pro-IP bill or more, but I don't think McCain has a particular reputation for it. Your comment suggests otherwise.

     

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  4.  
    icon
    KellerMaverick (profile), Aug 18th, 2008 @ 7:53am

    McCain "Running On Empty"

    Heh, at least ol' John chose the right song...those three words describe his personality, age, and politics.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 7:54am

    O, with this being a recurring event among polititions, want to bet that in the next copyright bill, it adds paragraph exempting copyright for political ads? Congress has given itself similar exemptions in the past, and will do so again. Pesky laws.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Ajax4Hire, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 7:57am

    I don't trust McCain and I don't trust the people

    I don't trust McCain and I don't trust the people who are controlling Obama. The best solution is for gridlock. If either one of the US Political System groups get an upper-hand, then the world will suffer.

    McCain seems to be principalled but with some questionable principals.
    Obama looks good when he talks others speeches but falters when he has to talk on his own.

    Obama is a big Ken Doll supported and controlled by a group of people behind him, like the RIAA hoping the FUD, Flash and Fancy talk will be enough to fool the common folk.

    McCain goes around with superior attitude and righteous indignation.

    I don't like either of them but I especially don't like the way Obama is being manipulated.

     

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  7.  
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    nipseyrussell, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 7:57am

    mccain and the republicans should really think about using a different song in their commercials, something that screams patriotism, maybe makes a comment that the govmt supports the troops. maybe something like "born in the usa"??

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Kansas Coward, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 8:09am

    Or maybe "Fortunate Son".

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    copyright info, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 8:11am

    McCain Troubles

    Actually, to use a song in an Ad, it cannot be cleared by ASCAP/BMI/SESAC - has to be cleared with the owner directly... you'd think a US Senator (or a staffer) would check up on copyright laws!

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 8:26am

    Re: McCain Troubles

    Probably was cleared by Browne's publishing house. Not like his catalog is currently raking in the money.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    harry wagner, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 8:34am

    Re:

    Perfect. "Fortunate Son" nails John McCain perfectly. Its no wonder he screwed this up. Has he ever done anything right? Republicans... what a (bad) joke.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 8:38am

    Jackson was an Edwards supporter. Now supporting Obama. Makes sense.

    McCain also used Moses in one of his adds. That was the most entertaining political add of the year, in my book.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Nismoto, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 8:41am

    Re: I don't trust McCain and I don't trust the people

    You didn't know,...

    THEY ARE ALL MANIPULATED: "hand-up-the-ass" puppets.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Cabalamat, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 8:43am

    @3: "Does McCain have particular history of being a Big Content crony?"

    I've no idea, however his website says this:

    While the Internet has provided tremendous opportunity for the creators of copyrighted works, including music and movies, to distribute their works around the world at low cost, it has also given rise to a global epidemic of piracy. John McCain supports efforts to crack down on piracy, both on the Internet and off.
    I didn't see any mention of fair use, however.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 8:45am

    How about a song called "Fear your Government"?

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Silly Harry, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 8:56am

    Re: Re:

    "Republicans... what a (bad) joke."
    You should thank Republicans for protecting your right to be ignant harry. If the far left had their way, we'd need to wait in line, fill out a form, and be granted permission to speak (Unless you were complimenting Pelosi of course). Ever heard of the Fairness Doctrine?

    Off subject, but silly comments from people like harry annoy me...

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    jonnyq, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 8:58am

    Re:

    In addition to what Matt is saying,

    "McCain's campaign points out that the ad isn't actually from the campaign..."

    So we're jumping up an down on McCain (supposedly a "big content" guy) for something he quite possibly had nothing to do with.

    I don't have any idea where McCain stands on copyright issues, but I suspect he doesn't really have a hard stance on it.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    hexjones, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 9:10am

    Re: Re: Re:

    oh really? So Republicans are solely responsible for protecting freedom of speech? And Dems want us to "wait in line, fill out a form, and be granted permission to speak" ?

    I mean, have you seen what is going on with the Department of Homeland Security? The law-bending that the White House is doing?

    I'd rather not have Republicans' form of "protecting" my rights, thank you.

     

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  19.  
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    Mike (profile), Aug 18th, 2008 @ 9:15am

    Re: McCain Troubles

    Actually, to use a song in an Ad, it cannot be cleared by ASCAP/BMI/SESAC - has to be cleared with the owner directly...

    Yes, I said that. In a commercial it does need to be cleared -- but at an event, it does not.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 9:28am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Beats the Democrate way, take'em all away, and tell you your fortunate to have rights

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    shivas, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 9:37am

    Re:

    "John McCain supports efforts to crack down on piracy, both on the Internet and off."

    Seeing that old,John McCain knows squat about computers,...I can only surmise that the pirates he would be "cracking down on",sail around the Caribean in tall ships and say "arrrrrrrgh,matey!" a fair bit.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    shivas, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 9:40am

    Re: Re:

    sorry,....typo,.....meant Caribbean

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Silly Harry, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 10:24am

    Re: Re:

    Ok, that's pretty good... but it bugs me that so many people assume democrats are more tech saavy. Dems can't even use voting machines. And despite Al Gore's claim, I think it's safe to say that most Internet companies were started by independant and motivated people, aka, republicans.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 10:48am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Nah man, Billary was an elite hax0r.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 10:51am

    More free publicity for McCain.
    And now I'll always associate Browne and the song with McCain, like I'll always think of Huckabee when I hear a Boston song.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    hex, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 10:54am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "independant and motivated people, aka, republicans"

    ha ha ha

    talk about pretentious!

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    snowburn14, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 11:03am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Erm...last I checked, the stereotypical bleeding-heart liberal was a card-carrying member of the ACLU. Did I miss a memo or something? Or are civil liberties not considered rights anymore?

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Phunahm, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 11:28am

    Re:

    Its the only way fading musicians can get any money......next...

     

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  29.  
    icon
    ConceptJunkie (profile), Aug 18th, 2008 @ 11:48am

    Re: McCain "Running On Empty"

    As opposed to Obama whose never done anything, has no ideas that weren't flogged to death 40 years ago, and nothing to say but how he is who we want him to be... riiiight.

    I'm no McCain fan, but compared to him, Obama is a know-nothing, done-nothing cypher.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Geeky Virgin, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 12:01pm

    I'm voting Democrat because I believe the government will do a better job of spending the money I earn than I would.

    I'm voting Democrat because freedom of speech is fine as long as nobody is offended by it.

    I'm voting Democrat because when we pull out of Iraq I trust that the bad guys will stop what they're doing because they now think we're good people.

    I'm voting Democrat because I believe that people who can't tell us if it will rain on Friday CAN tell us that the polar ice caps will melt away in ten years if I don't start driving a Prius.

    I'm voting Democrat because I'm not concerned about the slaughter of millions of babies so long as we keep all death row inmates alive.

    I'm voting Democrat because I believe that business should not be allowed to make profits for themselves. They need to break even and give the rest away to the government for redistribution as THEY see fit.

    I'm voting Democrat because I believe three or four pointy headed elitist liberals need to rewrite the Constitution every few days to suit some fringe kooks who would NEVER get their agendas past the voters.

    I'm voting Democrat because I believe that when the terrorists don't have to hide from us over there, when they come over here I don't want to have any guns in the house to fight them off with.

    I'm voting Democrat because I love the fact that I can now marry whatever I want. I've decided to marry my horse.

    I'm voting Democrat because I believe oil companies' profits of 4% on a gallon of gas are obscene but the government taxing the same gallon of gas at 15% isn't.

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2008 @ 6:22am

    Why did he sue . . . ?

    As I recall John Mellencamp didnt like McCaine using his song either. He simply asked the campaign to stop using it and they did, no lawyers, no court, no problem.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2008 @ 6:28am

    Re:

    "I'm voting Democrat because I believe the government will do a better job of spending the money I earn than I would."

    Where have you been, the Republican party is the big spending big government party. Republicans have been the big spending big government party since Reagan (Nixon was the last financially responsible Republican). The ony real difference is Republicans lie about it to thier supporters (to be honest they think your too stupid to notice), while the Democrats are just a lil more honest about spending (and at least since Clinton, democrats are actually far more responsible fiscally).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Mahmoud O'Sullivan, Aug 19th, 2008 @ 8:20am

    Re: Re: Re:

    @Silly Harry

    Speaking of annoying, how about ridiculous, exaggerated misrepresentations of the other side's viewpoint that only serve to perpetuate inaccurate stereotypes?

    Those are fun, and much easier than actually thinking.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    Doug, Aug 19th, 2008 @ 1:53pm

    The obvious

    What is it with politicians who position themselves being big pro-copyright supporters being caught potentially infringing on copyright themselves?

    That's obvious - they think they are above the law and that the laws are intended to limit our actions, not their own.

    It's too late now, but we would all be much better off if the Vietnamese people had tortured John McCain to death when they had the chance. We would all be safer, happier and richer if they had. Oh well, water under the bridge...

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Jim Tessier, Aug 19th, 2008 @ 2:08pm

    Synchronization Rights of J.Browne Were Violated

    Jackson Browne's synchonization rights are violated as soon as anyone uses his composition and/or recording in conjunction with a filmed or videotaped set of images.

    While typically the recording company owns the underlying masters and often the publisher owns the underlying copyright (maybe J. Browne still owns his), there is usually a clause between the publisher and the songwriter that resticts the publisher from licensing the copywrited works for anything political, x-rated, the topic of a movie based on the song or where the words and music will be altered. So, even if another artist does a cover of the song, the underlying works license needs to be cleared with Jackson Browne. Obviously no one did that and he has a right to be upset and sue McCain and/or his publisher.

    It sounds like Jackson Browne has a great case against McCain if the song is synched with video footage. And if it is, and his music publisher granted a license, J. Browne can probably go after them - since his song is being used for political purposes (which is restricted by standard boilerplate clauses).

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    freddie mac is bankrupt, Aug 19th, 2008 @ 5:22pm

    Jackson Browne Sues McCain For Using His Song In An Ad Without Permission

    Silly Harry....pull that stick out of your ass, and get a clue about who's screwing who. And by the way, it's spelt, "ignorant", not ignant, you ignorant republican war monger.

    I say put McCain in jail until he can prove his innocence beyond a reasonable doubt. That's the way it is for us serfs that serve these masters.

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    Chris Wolf, Aug 19th, 2008 @ 7:32pm

    Jackson Browne sues McCain for using his song in an ad without permission

    This is interesting because I have a similar situation. Last week as I was eating dinner I had Countdown w/Keith Olberman on. Suddenly, during his Best Persons segment, I hear ME! Playing on the TV! I was not asked, notified, compensated or otherwise! In fact, had I not been watching the show, I would never have known!
    Now, I'm not going after money. I'm not wanting to sue. It only played for 40 seconds. I just want to know where they found it.
    See, I'm not a member of ASCAP, BMI or the other one(?). I am an independent artist with a self produced, published and promoted CD. It's available on-line at CDBaby.com and Itune, Napster and a couple of other download sites.

    The way I understand it, according to the Copyright office, the minute the music is recorded and available on any medium, (CD, tape, record etc.) it is copyrighted. Right?

    Now, did MSNBC buy a copy of my song? I don't know. The song they used has only generated a tiny amount of money online. And, until July 31st, 2008, it was all generated by sites that charge to listen. (Usually a monthly fee) I will not see my August 2008 sales till late September.

    Did MSNBC illegally download and use my song on national TV without my permission? I can't say at this point, but that's a scandal I'd love to be a part of.

    Anyway, my 15 minutes was up days ago, but this article caught my eye. If you'd like to see the video it's here-
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iv77L0hnxm4

    By the way- MSNBC has a web page where you ask permission to use a clip from their broadcast. But they can use a clip from my CD without permission?

    Funny, huh?

    Just sayin'

    www.myspace.com/chriswolfmusic

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    Chris Wolf, Aug 19th, 2008 @ 7:42pm

    Jackson Browne sues McCain for using his song

    Oh, also, I am a big Olberman fan. Would have let them use it if they asked anyway. like I said, I'm not looking to get rich, just want to know how they found it.
    I've sent emails to 3 addresses twice now at MSNBC and still, no answer.
    But hey, I was on Olberman!!
    Pretty cool! Huh?

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    screamin'jay, Aug 20th, 2008 @ 1:50am

    "Running On Empty"

    McCain was asked to drop a song by John Mellencamp earlier .
    I don't envision McCain a 'rock n roller' , so much as an old fuddy duddy who'd be hollering to turn that damned thing down , more often than not .
    Thank God we can at least say the Republican Presidential Candidate of 2008 is SMART enough to not try this stint with a Willie Nelson number .

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Katz Freeman, Aug 20th, 2008 @ 7:13am

    McCain's Song

    Poor old McCain.....he can't do anything right.
    People should leave him alone, as he is not well.
    I hope he survives the election, but I don't think his health is that good.

    Poor old McCain, he is another tool to get his appointed "vice" president into the top spot.

    Meanwhile, Dr. Ron Paul is still running, and I'm still finding no other candidate that is honest and has integrity.

    So, I'm not voting for MSM "candidates", no matter what color that they are. The race card is played to hide the fact that both present candidates work for the same guy.
    The only actual American-first candidate is Ron Paul.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    cheesehead charlie, Aug 20th, 2008 @ 9:41am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I hear you on what you said about the repugs.....most of them are un-American,traitors and haters,who don't give a damn about the Bill of Rights or U.S.Constitution,or about world peace.However I think the Dems are also screwed up in the head lately......must be the zionists/AIPAC influence that Hillary brought aboard.
    I will stick w/ Ron Paul,he's my write-in.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    Rob A, Aug 20th, 2008 @ 2:16pm

    Jackson Browne's "Lives in the Balance" ROCKS!!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    Copyright Law, Aug 26th, 2008 @ 4:07pm

    Jackson Browne has no chance against McCain

    Rouge Judges will rule in McCain's favor for sure.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    identicon
    Tom Scott, Sep 26th, 2008 @ 1:43pm

    Jackson Browne

    Obviously I'm no expert, but doesn't there have to be some sort of monetary gain, or the intent to gain monetarily for there to be any copyright infringement?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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