Music Licensing 101 – For Politicians

Today David Byrne posted on his blog that he is filing suit against Florida Governor Charlie Crist for the illegal use of “Road to Nowhere.”  Crist reportedly began using the song in January, during the Republican primary contestant Marco Rubio. (Crist has since dropped out of the Republican race, and will run as an independent candidate.)” The Guardian reports.

The news seems to be spreading across the internet like another bad Republican joke.

David Byrne’s BLOG POST is very concise and to the point about the matter. I applaud him for his candor and for speaking directly to the public about it.

Lets talk about the meat and bones of this issue. ITS ILLEGAL to use a piece of music without permission, but the issue that strikes the heart of the matter is this……If we cannot trust our political leaders to know the law, and cope to any wrongdoings…..then #$%?

My official political statement on the issue: This goes to show you how insanely out of touch our leaders and future leaders are. So sad. Every employee in the media industry, from a Sr. VP all the way down to a Production Manager knows you have to license a piece of music to use it in a a VIDEO ONLINE or in a TV COMMERCIAL, so how is it that an entire staff of well paid campaign employees and strategists don’t know? Impossible.

My official music licensing statement: David Byrne has a really good point in his article about the fact that, “I still believe songs occasionally mean something to people — they obviously mean something personal to the writer, and often to the listener as well. A personal and social meaning is diluted when that same song is used to sell a product (or a politician).”

Just this week I am being asked to clear a major Billboard hit for a global beauty brand. The artist might well say no to 7 figures based on principle, on the meaning of his song. I support that 100%. It is a personal choice.

The statement given by the Campaign is nothing short of HILARIOUS, as per David Byrne’s BLOG POST. He claims they have used two arguments to defend their wrongdoings:

Fair Use and Free Speech

FAIR USE is defined as limited use of copyrighted material for news reporting, teaching, or research. For the record….Political messages paid for by donations are NOT FAIR USE.

FREE SPEECH, I refuse to define, because anyone who reads this should know the definition. For the record, free speech is not even in the neighborhood with musical copyright.  You can “say” the name of a song, but you cannot PLAY it in your video and call it free speech.

So, to those of your out there that make your living by running political campaigns, you are going to have to play by the rules if you want to use music.

My favorite part about this little debacle, is not even that the warning siren has not already gone off on this issue several times (the most recent being Jackson Brown’s suit against John McCain for misuse of “Running on Empty)……. but  that fact that the generous donors of the Charlie Crist campaign will be helping to fund the settlement if Bryne is to win his $1MM case.

Lastly, and as a final pot shot to old school political methodology in this country, STOP USING GREAT SONGS TO GET YOUR SLOGANS ACROSS.

You might actually have to come up with some original material. Something inspiring….on your own….NOT the words of someone else like David Byrne or Jackson Brown.

Ok…one more point. Artists deserve to be paid. Old or young, rich or poor.

Wow. It's Quiet Here...

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© Sarah Gavigan