Dear Musicians: Once Again, Politicians Can Probably Play Your Songs At Events Without Your Permission

from the hello-ascap dept

Election season is just starting to kickoff again, so of course we're going to get yet another series of stories about musicians complaining about politicians (that they disagree with) using their music at campaign events. You may recall that the Foo Fighters and Jackson Browne (among some others) got upset at John McCain for using their music, and the band Heart complained about Sarah Palin using one of the band's songs. Most of the complaints are about rally events, and almost all of the complaints are bogus. In cases where the music is used in a TV commercial (as was the case with Jackson Browne), the legalities are a little trickier (which is why McCain settled that lawsuit), but when it comes to events, the musicians are unlikely to get very far. That's because as long as the venue has the proper ASCAP/BMI licenses for public performance, they can play any covered songs they want. This has always been true.

So, for all the talk (as plenty of people have sent in) about Tom Petty complaining about Michele Bachmann using is song at campaign events, there's not much legal basis for the complaint. Ditto for the complaint (also against Bachmann) from Katrina and the Waves. This is probably why Bachmann seems to have ignored Petty and is still playing the music.

Of course, as we've pointed out before, even if there's no legal recourse, it still amazes us that Presidential candidates don't at least reach out to musicians first. Because otherwise, they're just opening up a huge opportunity for musicians to generate headlines about how much they dislike a particular politician. Why not find some musicians who support them and use their music?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Jul 5th, 2011 @ 1:45pm

    "Why not find some musicians who support them and use their music?"

    Because I can count the number of radical right wing nut musicians on one finger. Ted Nugent.

     

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  2.  
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    Anon, Jul 5th, 2011 @ 1:46pm

    Take Warning

    I think any musician who willingly signs away the rights to their music is basically saying they don't care what their music is being used for.

    Artists can counter saying they don't particularly support that politician, but it's not their song anymore.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 5th, 2011 @ 1:53pm

    "Why not find some musicians who support them and use their music?"

    because the mainstream media has so vilified the republican party that any artist who supported them would be immediatly ditched for the latest bush bashing band.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 5th, 2011 @ 1:56pm

    Re:

    So what's the problem with that?

    Why on earth wouldn't Bachmann be proud to play "Thunder Thighs" or "Little Miss Dangerous" played at her events?

     

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  5.  
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    Bob Collins, Jul 5th, 2011 @ 1:56pm

    As I read the ASCAP -- or maybe it was BMI, I forget -- contract, it looks like artists have a limited number of "blocks" of music performance that they are entitled to. I'm not sure if that is the number if airplays or the location of airplays, however.

    Also, this is for the comments posted so far, it's important to note the licensing is for the composition, not the performance. In these cases, I guess, it just so happens the songwriter and the song performer are the same, but the music licensing is primarily with the writer, not the performer.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 5th, 2011 @ 1:56pm

    Re:

    Really... mccain? bachmann? radical? if those people are radical to you, you are so far left as to come full circle to the other side and are now considered a neo-con

     

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  7.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jul 5th, 2011 @ 2:02pm

    Re: Re:

    Fat Bottomed Girls, perhaps?

     

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  8.  
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    Fletcher Wortmann, Jul 5th, 2011 @ 2:02pm

    Song rights

    As much as it pains me to say, I'm glad Mrs. Bachman refused to be bullied by Mr. Petty. It's most important to defend free speech when it's speech we disagree with... even when that speech is others re-appropriating our words to serve political ends we do not agree with.
    Of course, it's also entirely within Mr. Petty's rights to complain about this, and that should be disincentive enough for someone to use his works without permission - it's just another reminder (justified or not) to the electorate of how out-of-touch you are with artists and creative people.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 5th, 2011 @ 2:03pm

    Re: Re:

    McCain maybe, but Bachmann??!?!? You can't be serious.

    Actually, as someone who lives outside the US, if you don't consider them radical, then you've been brainwashed by the US media who want everything to be "balanced."

    Looking ath US politicians from a neutral point of view, it's pretty obvious that Obama is center-right. Schwarzennegger and Romney are right. McCain is far-right. Bachmann and her teabagging ilk are radical-right - so far gone they have no clue.

    Remember, Fox considers it their job to move the definition of "center" to be "far right" - looks like they've succeeded with you.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 5th, 2011 @ 2:08pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    I don't think Bachmann and Freddy Mercury are on the same page when it comes to certain pressing issues.

     

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  11.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jul 5th, 2011 @ 2:18pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Yeah, that's probably true. After all, Freddie was a staunch defender of unionized workers....

     

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  12.  
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    gorehound (profile), Jul 5th, 2011 @ 2:34pm

    don't sign with the MAFIAA

    this is just one of the many reasons any artist out there should ignore the big-wig labels,RIAA.ascap,etc

    there a lot of other reasons why.I do play in two bands which both have releases and i have other releases with older bands i did.i never had the desire nor would i ever no matter the money offered sign with the devil.

    Free music and more
    www.bigmeathammer.com

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 5th, 2011 @ 2:36pm

    Re: Re:

    "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang" would be a good for most politicians.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 5th, 2011 @ 2:37pm

    Re:

    You make it sound like mainstream media actually required effort. As a non-American looking in, it almost scares me that a political party that's almost a blatant caricature of right-wing mentality is actually one of only two possible choices.

     

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  15.  
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    abc gum, Jul 5th, 2011 @ 2:45pm

    Re:

    "because the mainstream media has so vilified the republican party"

    You mean like Conservative News Network?

     

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  16.  
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    johnjac (profile), Jul 5th, 2011 @ 2:49pm

    Why?

    Why not find some musicians who support them and use their music?

    Because at some point even Republicans tire of Toby Keith.

     

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  17.  
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    abc gum, Jul 5th, 2011 @ 2:49pm

    Musicians who disagree with use of their works in a particular venue might want to approach the matter from a different angle. They could, for example, produce a new song which addresses their displeasure. Hopefully the are not encumbered with legalese allowing censorship of same.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous, Jul 5th, 2011 @ 2:52pm

    Note to Tom Petty

    Write an unflattering song about Michelle Bachmann. Call her (on) everything she opposes. Make the tune catchy, release on the Internet for free. Instruct downloaders to play the song as protest outside her events. Epic win.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 5th, 2011 @ 2:54pm

    Youtube videos

    The music often also shows up on Youtube and other video sites. Now, if it's just supporters uploading video they took, then the musicians can't blame the candidates, but if the campaign itself is uploaded them, then that's still copyright infringement.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 5th, 2011 @ 2:54pm

    Re: Re:

    and Fox Propaganda, er I mean, "News"?

     

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  21.  
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    Vidiot (profile), Jul 5th, 2011 @ 3:02pm

    Maybe covered, maybe not

    "That's because as long as the venue has the proper ASCAP/BMI licenses for public performance, they can play any covered songs they want."
    Well, almost. That works as long as they're simply playing the song, like when the candidate takes the stage. But when the song in question has been rolled into a graphical/video montage or animated "splash" sequence, for example, and then used to intro the candidate, it becomes subject to synchronization rights, and that's where the screaming starts.

     

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  22.  
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    Fletcher Wortmann, Jul 5th, 2011 @ 3:17pm

    Re:

    Yo A-Coward,
    I admire your commitment to attacking strawmen but you may wish to update your references. Bush-bashing is so 2005. These days the liberal tastemaker machine prefers artists like Tyler the Creator, who engage in elaborate sexual violence-torture-miscegenation fantasies. We've stepped up our attack on traditional American values, so you best as well, son!
    (By the by, A-Coward would be a great hip hop name! You can even have that one for free! Creative Commons, biatch!)

     

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  23.  
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    iamtheky (profile), Jul 5th, 2011 @ 3:30pm

    Serious Question

    is it the venue, or the entity renting the venue, that has to have the proper licensing (or both)?

    And is there a point (or points) at which liability transfers parties?

     

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  24.  
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    rulesare4uandmenotthemgetIt, Jul 5th, 2011 @ 4:04pm

    Whether the artist who made the song has been approached by a political candidate seeking approval to play the song during a rally is something I am gonna spend less time on than just about anything.
    Just not able to pretend I have much in common with either one.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 5th, 2011 @ 4:28pm

    Why not find some musicians who support them and use their music?

    easy...... that would require a politician who could think for themselves....maybe even pick out their own clothes, tie their one shoes, etc......... that is not the kind of politician that corporate is willing to allow in the running to be their CEO.....er president of the united corporations of america

     

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  26.  
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    Nicedoggy, Jul 5th, 2011 @ 4:38pm

    Are this the same politicians that say in public that copyrights is about "the artists" choices?

    I know copyrights has nothing to do with how the artists can control where or when something is played in the U.S. in other countries that may be true like in Germany or Japan that have strong moral rights embeded into their copyright laws, but in the U.S.? nope, no such luck and still those same politicians take everything and use those things without permission all the while complaining how others are doing that to others.

    I find that to be ironic.

     

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  27.  
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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Jul 5th, 2011 @ 6:07pm

    Re: Re:

    Would "Strangehold" send the wrong message?

     

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  28.  
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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Jul 5th, 2011 @ 6:09pm

    Re: Why?

    It also contractually obligates them to give their speeches in a denim shirt with the sleeves cut off.

     

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  29.  
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    GeneralEmergency (profile), Jul 5th, 2011 @ 6:21pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    As someone who lives -inside- the U.S., I consider your grasp on reality to be tenuous at best.

     

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  30.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Jul 5th, 2011 @ 6:41pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    > Schwarzennegger and Romney are right. McCain is far-right.

    I suppose if you start with the socialist baseline of most other 1st-world countries as a "center", then your assessment is correct.

     

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  31.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Jul 5th, 2011 @ 6:44pm

    Re: Maybe covered, maybe not

    > it becomes subject to synchronization rights

    The very fact that something like 'synchronization rights' exists in the first place ought to make any sane person's head explode.

     

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  32.  
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    RD, Jul 5th, 2011 @ 9:22pm

    Tough f-ing shit

    You know what I say? Tough fucking shit. You bought-and-paid-for shill politicians took the bribes from the music industry to pass ever-increasing and restrictive laws for the copyright holders, so now you get to reap what you have sown. YOU assholes put the laws into place, you corrupt congresspeople bought the whole "every use must be paid for" and "there is no such thing as fair use" lines that these industry jerkoffs fed you. You dont get to claim special exemption that you would otherwise allow the average citizen to be sued for millions of dollars for if they did the same thing.

    You made your bed, you get to lie in it now.

    Tough shit. Live with it or retract the laws.

     

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  33.  
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    Nicedoggy, Jul 6th, 2011 @ 1:40am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I like Schwarzennegger as an actor but when he was ever right as a governor?

    ps: that is a joke.

     

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  34.  
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    hmm (profile), Jul 6th, 2011 @ 2:19am

    easy answer

    The simple answer is as SOON as a politican starts using your music publicly, you come out and say what a god-awful retarded you think that person is and how they deserve to die in a ditch after being raped unconscious by wild baboons.......

    get THAT onto twitter and watch the hilarity as they continue to use your music.....

    Or (depending on the song) just make-up a reason for the lyrics.....oh yeah THAT song? yeah its a ballad about how awful politicians are and how they're all scum-sucking parasites that should be blasted into the sun!

     

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  35.  
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    Bergman (profile), Jul 6th, 2011 @ 4:51am

    Re:

    Dare I wonder which finger you're using for that? =P

     

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  36.  
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    Brian Schroth (profile), Jul 6th, 2011 @ 6:34am

    Re: Re:

    Hey, Mike Huckabee had Nugent on his TV show and played bass for him while he sang about making pussies purr.

     

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  37.  
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    cryptozoologist (profile), Jul 6th, 2011 @ 7:18am

    too bad there is no shortage of anonymous cowards eager to step up to the plate to defend the republican party. i thought that the revulsion i felt for the republican party was the product of an enlightened upbringing and strong critical thinking skills, but now i see i am a victim of the mainstream media.

     

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  38.  
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    cryptozoologist (profile), Jul 6th, 2011 @ 7:24am

    Re: Note to Tom Petty

    let me second this! the correct thing for an artist to do when a politician they disagree with wants to use one of their songs is to write a scathing parody. artists, try to reinforce the association between the candidate and your hilarious satirical version of your song.

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 6th, 2011 @ 7:51am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Your lame attempt at pejorative insult notwithstanding, yes- you define a spectrum by looking at all data points, rather than one freak outlier.

    If your entire rebuttal is "that's only true if you define "center" as middle" then you are just proving me correct.

     

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  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 6th, 2011 @ 9:31am

    Re: Re:

    Dude, I think you're right about McCain (although the other poster didn't really imply that McCain himself was a radical), but Bachmann is out there.

     

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  41.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 6th, 2011 @ 9:34am

    Re: Serious Question

    Generally, as long as one is licensed, they are both ok. Usually, the venue gets a blanket license.

     

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  42.  
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    lifeform23, Jul 6th, 2011 @ 10:41am

    moral rights

    Moral rights allow artists freedom from having their works used in association with causes, businesses, etc. that they consider may bring them into disrepute. The U.S. is supposed to have moral rights because it signed the Berne Convention promising to adopt them, and the U.S. Senate expressly said when approving the Convention that no specific new legislation was required to create moral rights since they were already provided by U.S. law.
    So what is the basis for the suggestion that musicians have no recourse for political uses of their songs?

     

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  43.  
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    IP Lawyer, Jul 6th, 2011 @ 11:12am

    Rights of Publicity

    I think that Masnick has the basics on this one correct, in that ASCAP/BMI licensing should cover the use in question.

    However, I'm not entirely sure that there wouldn't be a sound cause of action for trademark tarnishment / dilution, or violation of publicity rights. I don't know for certain, but I would have to see what the ASCAP/BMI language specifies; it may in fact preserve such a cause of action. In any event, those rules depend on venue, and there may actually be a cause of action for rights of publicity in California.

    Also, I don't think that ASCAP/BMI licenses cover venue events that are recorded and then broadcast.

    Anyone know?

     

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  44.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Jul 6th, 2011 @ 11:34am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    > If your entire rebuttal is "that's only true
    > if you define "center" as middle" then you
    > are just proving me correct.

    And if your entire rebuttal is that "socialism is by definition 'center'", then you are just proving me correct as well.

     

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  45.  
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    Gene Cavanaugh (profile), Jul 6th, 2011 @ 1:08pm

    Musicians who don't like politicians

    Why would anyone care if an Idle American (or is that an American Idol?) likes or dislikes someone?

     

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  46.  
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    Squeedle, Jul 7th, 2011 @ 1:44pm

    Re: Take Warning

    "I think any musician who willingly signs away the rights to their music is basically saying they don't care what their music is being used for."

    Technically yes, but it should be noted, if you want to sign with a large record company you have to agree to such terms. Your other choices, up until recently (see efforts of Trent Reznor and Jonathan Coulton), were to: a) remain a starving artist, or b) start your own label (and in the meantime, starve until it gets going).

     

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


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