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.

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Comments on “Jackson Browne Sues McCain For Using His Song In An Ad Without Permission”

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44 Comments
Matt Bennett says:

“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.

jonnyq says:

Re: 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.

Ajax4Hire (profile) says:

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.

Silly Harry says:

Re: 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…

hexjones says:

Re: 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.

cheesehead charlie says:

Re: Re: Re:2 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.

Cabalamat (user link) says:

@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.

shivas says:

Re: 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.

Silly Harry says:

Re: 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.

Geeky Virgin says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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).

Doug says:

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…

Jim Tessier (user link) says:

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).

freddie mac is bankrupt says:

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.

Chris Wolf (user link) says:

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’

http://www.myspace.com/chriswolfmusic

screamin'jay says:

"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 .

Katz Freeman says:

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.

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