by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jul 21st 2009 9:21pm
Last year, during the presidential campaign, singer Jackson Browne sued John McCain for using one of his songs in an ad. There were a few questionable aspects to the lawsuit. First, the ad wasn't actually from the McCain campaign. There were also some questions about whether or not this was fair use since it was ostensibly used for "political speech," but so far the court didn't seem too amenable to that. And so, McCain has settled the lawsuit and publicly apologized to Browne, who claims this wasn't a partisan issue (yeah, right), but about the rights of musicians. This actually would have been an interesting fair use battle, so it's a little disappointing that it's ended, but the argument over "musicians' rights" strikes me as a bit silly, too. McCain could have easily used the same song live at a campaign stop, assuming the venue paid a compulsory performance license. And someone in the McCain camp could have legally covered the song, paying the correct compulsory license as well -- and then potentially used that version in a commercial. Basically, all this really did was highlight how convoluted and often arbitrary copyright laws are in many cases. But, rather than learning a useful lesson on the mess that is today's copyright law, it looks like McCain has taken the easy way out.
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