Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Rock and Roll In America: It Just Keeps Getting Funnier

Tim Emmerick - Stark Contributing Writer

I’ve got a joke for you. It’s a real screamer. You ready?

What do David Byrne, Rush and Don Henley all have in common?

Give up?

All of these multi-platinum selling artists have are currently taking legal action against Republican senatorial candidates for stealing their music.

David Byrne is not the picture of a GOP supporter so it came as a bit of a shock last month when friends in Florida asked him why he lent “Road to Nowhere” to governor Charlie Crist for his senatorial campaign. Byrne was never contacted about the song and Crist’s campaign made no attempt to license the 1985 hit.

Byrne has since enlisted the help of copyright lawyer Lawrence Iser to file suit against Crist’s campaign. Iser, it turns out, is the man to call when robbed by an arrogant politician. In 2008, Iser successfully sued then presidential candidate John McCain on behalf of Jackson Browne for using a song repeatedly in a national ad campaign.

"People that I knew had seen [the ad] so it had gotten around,” Byrne recently told the BBC. "It's not about politics, it's about copyright and about the fact that it does imply that I would have licensed it and endorsed him and whatever he stands for."

Iser adds: “I was fairly astonished that this soon after the settlement of Browne v McCain, yet another politician with national aspirations is doing this again.”


Within weeks of Byrne’s suit, a California judge ordered senatorial candidate Chuck DeVore to suspend use of Don Henley’s hits “Boys of Summer” and “All She Wants To Do Is Dance." DeVore went to the length of rerecording new versions of the tracks to avoid paying Henley for licenses.

Not to be out done by his GOP cohorts, Kentucky candidate Rand Paul also got into a little Winona Rider action. Being the total douchestain, errrr I mean "edgy libertarian" that he is, the new face of the Tea Baggers chose Rush's "Spirit of the Radio" as the backing track for recent events. Paul not only signed off on the illegal use of the track but then also quoted Rush lyrics repeatedly in during a recent appearance. Rush's legal team has also filed a cease and desist order against Paul saying, "this is not a political issue — this is a copyright issue. We would do this no matter who it is." Yeah, right.

Disgustingly, these are just the current cases. Sarah Palin and John McCain were sued repeatedly for stealing music in 2008 with suits from Heart, Foo Fighters, John Mellencamp, Jackson Browne, and Van Halen. Even our liberal darling President Obama got into the act, helping himself to Sam & Dave’s soul classic “Hold On I’m Comin.”

I once found it somehow comforting to say thing like “these politicians are crooks.” Nowadays, though, I find it harder than ever to escape the fact that I am my politicians and they are me. I don’t respect music or musicians, so why would my politicians? If I don't stand up for the artists I love, can I blame politicians for ripping them off? Not without blaming myself first. The music business has been full of questions for the last decade, but maybe best thing we can do is to elect as many thieves as possible, steal as much music as possible and put as many artists out on the streets as we can. Perhaps when Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, and 60 million YouTubers playing the same O.A.R. cover are the only music we have left we’ll figure out a way to support those who truly enrich our lives?

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks, Tim. I've been hoping for somebody to begin a compilation of these things, and yours is a great start. Surely there are some members of other parties who have similarly misappropriated musicians' work on their campaigns. I'm immediately reminded of Democrat (and self-described socialist) Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is known for playing "Truckin'" at campaign rallies after electoral victories, and there must be others. There's no reason to think that it's only the GOP that has a penchant for copyright violation on the trail.

While it is harder to identify instances of misuse in which a suit wasn't filed, our disapproval shouldn't turn on whether there was a lawsuit. It is the violation itself that should worry us, and there are all sorts of reasons beyond personal politics why suits aren't filed.

This is a good start on something I've been hoping to see for some time. Thanks for getting it going.