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?

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

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 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.

Squeedle says:

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).

Fletcher Wortmann (user link) says:

Re: 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!)

Bob Collins (user link) says:

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.

Fletcher Wortmann (user link) says:

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.

gorehound (profile) says:

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

Vidiot (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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… president of the united corporations of america

Nicedoggy says:

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.

RD says:

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.

hmm (profile) says:

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!

lifeform23 says:

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?

IP Lawyer says:

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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