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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Music, Copyright, and Campaigns

Our textbook mentions two seemingly unrelated things that intersect in a current news story. First, the Constitution empowers Congress to protect the intellectual property of artists. Second, people in the entertainment industry strongly favor the Democratic Party. In The New York Times, James C. McKinely reports:
Let’s say you’re a Republican running for president.

You’re looking for a rousing pop anthem to pump up your troops and underscore your message. There’s plenty of music out there, but you have a problem: most of the pop stars, it seems, prefer Democrats.
Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich were forced this week to stop using songs at their rallies after songwriters complained that the campaigns had played the pieces without permission. Strike another two songs from the Republican playlist: “Eye of the Tiger,” by Survivor, and “Wavin’ Flag,” by the Somali-born musician K’naan.
“When you think about every iconic song that has emotional resonance for millions and millions of Americans, in almost every instance, Republican candidates can’t use the song because the artist is not supportive,” said Steve Schmidt, a Republican campaign strategist who was Senator John McCain’s campaign manager in 2008 and worked on the re-election campaign of President George W. Bush. “All these artists are delighted to sell concert tickets to independents and Republicans.”
Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for Mr. Romney, said the campaign had stopped using K’naan’s song out of respect for his political views, even though the campaign bought blanket licenses from two public-performance societies — Ascap and BMI — which pay royalties to members.
Experts on copyright law said such licenses, usually bought by restaurants and other businesses that play recorded music, do protect the campaign from many copyright complaints, but a politician can still be sued under the federal trademark law for false advertising if the use of the song implies that the musician has endorsed the candidate.