Senator John McCain may have predicted his own future when he used Jackson Browne’s hit “Running On Empty” in a television and online advertisement for his 2008 Presidential campaign. Browne was quick to react, suing McCain, the Ohio Republican Party, and the Republican National Committee for their unauthorized use of the 1977 hit.
The commercial was run in Ohio and Pennsylvania and bashed then-fellow nominee Barack Obama, who suggested that Americans keep their car tires inflated properly in order to get better gas mileage.
The suit was based on two counts of copyright infringement; to be able to use the song, the campaign would have needed licenses from both Browne and Asylum Records, a subsidiary of Warner Music Group. The unauthorized use of Browne’s voice also allowed the singer to sue on counts of false endorsement and the violating of his right of publicity.
On July 21, the case was settled out of court, with the Republican Party paying an undisclosed sum of money and granting a public apology. The party also pledged to “to respect and uphold the rights of artists and to obtain permissions and/or licenses for copyrighted works where appropriate.”
The apology claimed that McCain “had no knowledge of, or involvement in, the creation or distribution of the video.” Browne’s lawyer, Lawrence Iser, supported this claim by acknowledging that McCain “has had an excellent record in terms of copyright legislation in the Senate.”
“It’s great to have it affirmed that these (copyright and usage) laws stand,” Browne told Billboard. Hopeful that the result of the settlement is a good sign for the future of music copyright laws, Browne said “I certainly hope that the fact that these issues were raised and that the judgment was in our favor will give people who are intending to [use music without permission] pause and caution.”
In other GOP news, Rep. Dave Reichert of Washington introduced a video yesterday that is aimed at young voters. Debuting at the weekly Republican conference, the video parodies Lady Gaga. Reichert described the parody as “a song against racking up devastating national debt and massive government expansion.” The 4-minute video shows a teen watching a news program about the cost of Obama’s healthcare plan and stimulus package before launching into the Lady Gaga-themed remix titled “Just Tax,” complete with special effects and auto-tuned vocals.
-additional reporting by Ted Spangler