What is it with Republican presidential candidates and campaign trail songs? Newt Gingrich has just been sued by Rude Music Inc. for using Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” in political events since 2009:
The company wants him to stop immediately and is asking a court to award the band damages. But it’s not necessarily clear that they’ll rule in his favor. As Slate explained in 2008, after the band Heart asked John McCain’s presidential campaign to stop using their song “Barracuda” to introduce Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin at rallies, if campaigns get licenses to perform songs from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, they’re probably in the clear. If you’ve got an ASCAP license, you don’t have to ask artists whose music is registered through the society for specific permission to play their songs. “Eye of the Tiger” is in the ASCAP database, so it’s probably a question of whether Gingrich’s campaign or the venues where the song has been played have they appropriate licenses.
That said, there’s something amusing about the regular kerfuffles between Republican candidates and recording artists. Ever since George Will and Michael Deaver tried to see if Bruce Springsteen would endorse Ronald Reagan for president, Republicans have run into trouble over the songs they’ve played on the campaign trail or the artists’ whose work they’ve tried to claim have supported their messaging. McCain didn’t just run into trouble with Heart during the 2008 campaign: Jackson Browne sued him for using part of “Running on Empty” in a campaign ad (ASCAP licenses don’t cover video productions, which must get separate permission). Tom Petty went after George W. Bush for using “Don’t Back Down” in 2004, and asked Michele Bachmann to stop using “American Girl” on the trail. Maybe it’s time for Republican candidates to start reaching out to artists before picking their soundtracks.