By: Luke Pontier & Elizabeth Sy
Political candidates often use music on the campaign trail to promote enthusiasm and positive messages in the minds of voters. Two great examples are Bill Clinton’s use of Fleetwood Mac’s pop song “Don’t Stop” during his campaign, and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s use of “Happy Days are Here Again” during the Great Depression.
The use of copyrighted music has received a mixture of praise and backlash by the artists. For example, in 2007, Celine Dion said that she was thrilled by Hillary Clinton’s choice to use her song “You and I.” On the other hand, Donald Trump has been scolded by multiple artists for using their songs during his campaign, including R.E.M. for Trump’s use of “It’s the End of the World as We Know It.” The band’s singer, Michael Stipe responded to Trump by stating, “[D]o not use our music or my voice for your moronic charade of a campaign.” This comes shortly after Trump was scolded 3 months ago for using Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” in his presidential candidacy announcement.
Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee played Survivor’s classic song “Eye of the Tiger” during Kentucky court clerk Kim Davis’ release from jail. Davis recently made headlines for her arrest after refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Survivor has now filed a $1.2 million lawsuit against Davis and Huckabee.
Although playing music may help to inspire voters, political candidates and other public figures should use the music within the barriers of copyright law. In order to steer clear from copyright and other violations, public figures should take these guidelines into consideration:
In a time where public image is of the utmost importance, following these guidelines will help protect a political candidate from negative publicity. To avoid any controversy, political candidates should reach out to the artist’s management team to seek permission to use the artist’s songs on the campaign trail.