“I Won’t Back Down,” or Will I? The Law and Politics Surrounding Presidential Candidates Unauthorized or Unwelcomed Use of Musical Artists and Their Songs

Eric T. Kasper
Benjamin S. Schoening

Colorful musical instruments design

Music has long been a part of presidential campaigns, but major party candidates for the U.S. presidency have been increasingly using preexisting popular songs for their campaign music. Campaigns over the past few decades are replete with candidates playing pre-recorded songs either without permission from the copyright holders or without the explicit consent of noncopyright holding musical artists. Although candidates using pre-existing popular music enjoy the ability to appeal to voters in new ways and receive implied endorsements from artists, they have also suffered political and legal setbacks when copyright holders and artists have objected. We examine the growth of this phenomenon, positing that it is due to changes in both technology and copyright law. We also illustrate how several campaigns in recent presidential elections have engaged in overreach with their use of pre-existing music, leading to negative publicity and unwanted legal action. Finally, we provide advice to candidates on how to express their campaign messages through music and musical artists while in ways that avoid these pitfalls.

[Read More]

PS: Political Science & Politics / Volume 49 / Issue 01 / January 2016, pp 53-58

Copyright © American Political Science Association 2016