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Campaigns, Copyrights, and Compositions: A Politician’s Guide to Music on the Campaign Trail

July 7, 2011 Comments off

Campaigns, Copyrights, and Compositions: A Politician’s Guide to Music on the Campaign Trail
Source: Public Knowledge

If you think the recent set-to between Tom Petty and GOP presidential hopeful Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) sounds familiar, you’re not alone. The scuffle over Bachmann’s use of “American Girl” is hardly the first time a politician has come under fire for using a song without the artist’s permission. Backlash from angry artists has left candidates from 1996 Republican presidential nominee then-Sen. Bob Dole (Sam & Dave’s “I’m a Soul Man” in 1996) to then-Sen. Barack Obama (again Sam & Dave, this time with “Hold On, I’m Comin’” in 2008) singing the blues.

Remarkably, in many cases the artist lacks legal standing to prevent the use of his song on copyright grounds. He does, however, have a number of other rights of action, as well as the pedestal from which to generate bad publicity.

The fallout from these incidents is messy, but entirely avoidable with a little footwork and know-how. So, to all politicians: keep this checklist handy. You’re about to get a crash-course in how to avoid eliciting an angry public statement from a pop icon.

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