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Do politicians need permission to play a song at campaign events?

No matter whether it is the songwriter, the performer or the record label, someone always has the rights to a song. Whether you need permission to play this song depends very much on the circumstances. A wedding DJ doesn’t have to worry about the consequences when he plays Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” or “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers. Sports arenas can record the “Start Me Up” of the Rolling Stones without publication.

In the world of politics, however, campaigns and rallies that rely on music to excite the crowd are often attacked for unauthorized use. What is the reason?

According to Rolling StoneIt is usually not a copyright issue, although a song is used without permission is technically copyright infringement. If a song is played in a public place such as a stadium or arena with a public performance license, no permission is required. The license is usually granted by a songwriter association such as the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) or Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI). Still, ASCAP still recommends [PDF] that political campaigns seek permission from musicians or songwriters because these licenses exclude music played during congresses or campaign events.

In addition, most artists are not interested in having their music played at a wedding or sporting event. It is, after all, a form of free advertising and publicity, and no one really makes a significant amount of money from his work. But the political area is different. Because artists may have different political beliefs than a candidate using their music, they are sometimes worried that the use of their material could be interpreted as confirmation.

Then artists can start making noise about politicians stopping playing their music. In this case, they can object to their publicity rights ̵

1; a legal argument that covers the representation of their picture. You can claim that the use of your work violates your right not to be associated with a subject that you find offensive. Other arguments can be put forward by the Lanham Act, which covers brand confusion (or false confirmation) and which addresses the implication that an artist is endorsing a political message when his music is used.

For example, in 2008 Jackson Browne won a lawsuit against John McCain and the National and Ohio GOP when the McCain campaign used Brownes song “Running on Empty” in ads that attacked Barack Obama for gas savings.

Even if the musician does not support a candidate, it is not always advisable to take such measures. A controversial legal confrontation can often lead to more publicity than if a musician simply lets the campaign continue uninterrupted. In other cases, recorders feel strongly about distancing themselves from a message that they disagree with, that they take all necessary steps.

The final result? Most of the time, a song played during a campaign is missing because an artist or label has given its permission. And if the artist does not vigorously contradict the campaign message and is willing to engage in a lawsuit, there is likely not much that he can do to stop it.

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