This one is so regular I could cut and paste the same article just replacing the name of the candidate and the name of the song. Dee Snider, frontman for 80s band Twisted Sister, has asked US Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s camp not to play the song, “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” Snider stated that he does not support Ryan and denounced the use of the song, a hit for the glam band in 1984.
Every year in nearly every country, politicians get into the same spot when they use usually anthemic songs in their campaigns and/or political rallies. The rock band Silversun Pickups recently asked Ryan’s co-runner Mitt Romney to stop using the song “Panic Switch”. The UMP party in France had to pay a very large fee after using a track without permission in 2010. That same year, Joe Walsh of The Eagles had to get heavy with a politician of the same name, who had re-written parts of “Lead the Way” for his campaign. The politician had the cheek to call it a parody, hardly a way to endear him to the composer.
Moral rights for songwriters
Just as predictable are the reactions of supporters of the politicians in question, who come out with comments such as, “You should be happy someone is still listening to that old track”. So just for all you political-minded people out there, here’s a reminder: the writers of a song have what are called “moral rights”. If they feel the use of a song is damaging to their image in any way, they are perfectly entitled to demand that it not be used in particular circumstances. Publishing contracts, for example, very often specify that some uses such as advertising for alcohol and cigarettes are not allowed. Politics is on that list. Touchy, you think? The Wagner family is still trying to get over their name being associated with the Nazis, and that was nearly 100 years ago now.
And just to be extra clear, the ASCAP site in the US has this to say about using music in political campaigns:
Q: If the campaign events are properly licensed, can the campaign still be criticized or even sued by an artist for playing his or her song at an event?
A: Yes. If an artist does not want his or her music to be associated with the campaign, he or she may be able to take legal action even if the campaign has the appropriate copyright licenses. While the campaign would be in compliance with copyright law, it could potentially be in violation of other laws. Specifically, the campaign could be liable under any of the following claims:
1. “Right of Publicity”, which in many states provides image protection for famous people or artists.
2. The “Lanham Act”, which covers the confusion or dilution of a trademark (such as a band or artist name) through its unauthorized use.
3. “False Endorsement” where use of the artist’s identifying work implies that the artist supports a product or candidate.
Have you any favourite political tunes or gaffes?