Get the Tiger’s Permission

Both Newt Gingrich and Newt Romney, candidates in the Republican primary for US President,were informed they were violating the creators’ right by using popular tunes in their respective campaign rallies. One of the offending tunes was “Eye of the Tiger” from the Rocky series of films. The problem? Neither candidate requested nor received permission from the creator of the tunes to play them at their events.

Yes, both campaigns had obtained blanket licenses from the composer’s rights organizations, ASCAP and BMI. However, under federal trademark law, one can be the recipient of legal action if usage of a copyrighted work indicates that the song’s creator endorses the candidate who uses the work prominently in a campaign rally.

This brings up an interesting point. From a copyright standpoint, use of this song has been ostensibly cleared with the ASCAP and BMI licenses, organizations who distribute royalties to those composers whose works have been played. But due to the circumstances under which the song was presented, it leads the listener to believe the song’s identity or creator are affiliated with the organization presenting the song. This infringes on the song’s trademark which presents the legal problem.

Both candidates have since pulled the offending songs from their playlists and plan to ask first before using certain tunes.

Wondering what kind of royalty-free audio you can use in a student project? Check out Bowling Green’s excellent resource.


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