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.