Do Politicians Need Permission to Play the Music of Well-Known Artists or Bands?

 

Modern electric guitar

With the upcoming November elections less than two months away, I thought it would be a good idea to answer this question. After all, music has the unique ability to energize, inspire and motivate a crowded convention hall and campaign. Political candidates know this and the smart ones also know that music is protected by copyright laws. Truth be told, many politicians and their teams just don’t care.

During the 2016 Presidential election, the estate of George Harrison tweeted out, “The unauthorized use of #HereComestheSun at the #RNCinCLE is offensive & against the wishes of the George Harrison estate.”

george_harrison

The day before the Republican National Convention started, the band Queen protested Trump’s “unauthorized use” of “We Are the Champions.”

The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, R.E.M. and Neil Young have also demanded that Trump stop playing their music at his rallies. In response, Trump looked the other way and blasted out “You Can’t Always Get What you Want” by the Rolling Stones after his next speech.

Regardless of your political persuasion, favorite band or song, what’s the deal? Do political campaigns have the right to play songs without the permission of the artist?

My short answer is probably not.

Music is copyrighted, and a proper license is normally required to play a band’s music. If you don’t have permission from the artist or management company, then you may be in copyright violation. An exception might include a politician playing a song from the convention hall’s catalog of licensed music.

Another little know fact is that if a stadium, arena or venue has a public-performance license through ASCAP or BMI (songwriters’ associations), it may be legally OK to play that song during a political campaign.

In addition to copyright issues, there’s also a valuable “right of publicity” asset that a musical artist may be able to protect. Under this theory, Mick Jagger, of the Rolling Stones would argue his voice being broadcasted at a political convention is part of his image, and only he has the right to benefit from that image. This is an area of law that is generally untested in the courts but, it appears to me that artists would be on strong legal grounds should they decide to hold offending political candidates liable under this theory.

Other legal arguments musical artists, bands, and right holders may assert include violations of the “Lanham Act” (confusion or dilution of a trademark through unauthorized use) and “False Endorsement” (implies that the artist supports a product or candidate).

In my opinion, the best legal and ethical way for political campaigns and candidates to acquire the rights to use a particular song or list of songs at a convention is to obtain written permission from the artist or management company via a limited license. This avoids all of the above problems including litigation and legal damages. Written permission also prevents misunderstands with the community’s perception as to which artist or band supports a particular candidate.

When all said and done, getting written permission is just the right thing to do.

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Related Live Video

Attorneys Joey Vitale and Mitch Jackson answer this question and more on this Wednesday’s LegalHour.live (live video show) 11 am PT | 2 pm ET.

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Spotlighting Your “Whys” in Your Digital Marketing Strategy

In this inaugural reboot episode, Gyi Tsakalakis and Kelly Street talk with Mitch Jackson about identifying your “whys,” newsjacking, and other digital marketing strategies. Click here or below to listen and share 😉

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We also shared our thoughts about IGTV in a recent episode of the LegalHour.live (Wednesdays at 2 pm ET) titled, “IGTV for Your Business. The Good, Bad and the Ugly!”

Why I’m Proud To Be a Trial Lawyer (My Rant)!

The rights and liberties our ancestors fought and died for (civil rights, due process and equal protection) are now, for the most part, thought less about by most Americans than the big question concerning who is going to be sent home on the next “Survivor” television show? More people know the names of the “OC Housewives” or “Bachelor” contestants than the names of our U.S. Supreme Court justices. This isn’t OK and I need to get this off my chest.

My name is Mitch Jackson and I’ve been a trial lawyer for 3 decades. It’s in my blood. Being a trial lawyer is something I’m very proud of.

Trial lawyers protect those who do not have the ability or resources to protect themselves. They keep the peace and make sure everyone plays by the rules. They are an indispensable part of a society and a group of professionals who work every day to try and make sure everyone and every corporation is equal, fair and just.

In a world where “alternative facts” start to become the norm and, a complete lack of respect for our Constitution, Separation of Powers, independent judicial system, and the free press, is promoted and endorsed by our “leaders” in Washington DC, you need to know the following:

When a person or company, no matter how big or important, decides that the law doesn’t apply to what they’re doing, trial lawyers are there to hold that wrongdoer accountable.

What we do matters. I truly believe that a good trial lawyer is the custodian of the community’s legal and ethical sense. We are not the enemy of business or progress. In fact, we’re just the opposite. We protect the rights and freedom of people and business and make sure quality products and safety always come first. We are the ally of business and the American dream.

The law and function of trial lawyers have changed over time. And that’s a good thing. Since the beginning of civilization, a common element of all people and societies is change. Trial lawyers and the law are no different. We need to continue to improve and revamp ourselves based upon prior conduct and the present and future needs of society.

Revamping or renovating something special is always the preferred approach. It’s not always easy but is always necessary. In fact, some call this cycle the cycle of life. Even the Statute of liberty wore out after a hundred years. It needed to be refurbished. No big deal.

Along the same lines and over 2 centuries ago a lawyer, Thomas Jefferson, helped pen the Declaration of Independence. Today it stands strong. It continues to be a landmark- a human progress of ideas, ideals and values.

The Declaration of Independence and for that matter, our Constitution, are living, breathing and changing documents. Monuments much older than the Statute of Liberty, and erected on paper rather than a cement foundation. Documents etched indelibly in the minds and free men and women wherever they are.

Most people on this planet believe equality and justice are primary concerns. Truth be told, this isn’t the case. People living in third world countries controlled by dictatorships know this all too well. Many Americans don’t truly appreciate the rights and liberties they experience on a daily basis.

And that’s too bad.

Tragically, it seems to me that many Americans have become passive when it comes to protecting their liberty and justice. They take for granted what some “talking head” says and they go along with the flow.

Based upon what I’m seeing and hearing almost on a daily basis, the average American just doesn’t’ believe it is his or her duty to preserve the liberties that all of us enjoy. And I find that very sad.

Continue reading “Why I’m Proud To Be a Trial Lawyer (My Rant)!”

Our New Jackson & Wilson Website

Many of you know me only as the “Streaming Lawyer.”

What you may not know is that for the past 32 years, I’ve been one of the Senior Partners of a California litigation and trial lawyer law firm that I started back in 1986 called “Jackson & Wilson, Inc.”

This past weekend we updated our law firm website with the help of Scorpion (full disclosure, I’m a brand ambassador for the company). We happen to think the new site is fantastic and would enjoy your feedback and suggestions. When you have a couple of minutes, please click here to take a look.

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How To Build Your Brand Using the “You Should Know” Newsletter

This was fun! A big “thank you” for the opportunity to share the Let America Know’s “You Should Know” legal newsletter with my social media legal community.

This service provides consumer attorneys with an easy and effective way to keep consumers and clients updated on what we do and what consumers need to know to stay safe. Hopefully I shared a few new ideas to help lawyers share the newsletter with their audience. Full disclosure, I am a brand ambassador for Let America Know (because I’m such a big fan of the service!)