John McCain’s latest campaign ad continues the pop-culture theme of his Britney/Paris ad, this time using the song "Running on Empty" to mock Obama for proposing gas conservation through tire inflation. That’s my song, said Jackson Browne, who is not at all a Republican, and who is now suing McCain and the Republican National Committee for copyright infringement.
Browne’s lawyer, Lawrence Iser, said that the lawsuit was not politically motivated, but admitted that the implied endorsement of McCain was "anathema" to his client. "In light of Jackson Browne’s lifelong commitment to Democratic ideals and political candidates, the misappropriation of Jackson Browne’s endorsement is entirely reprehensible," Iser said. In a surprising turn of events, he then added that he thought a jury would agree.
A spokesman for the McCain campaign said it was not responsible for the ad. He blamed the Ohio Republican Party, apparently a rogue outfit not affiliated with the McCain campaign in any way. We sued them too, pointed out Iser, who added that "we have been informed and believe" (translation: they aren’t sure) that the national campaign was well aware of the ad before it ran.
Supporting that, he said, is the fact that McCain’s campaign has a track record of using music without permission. "They used a John Mellencamp song ["Pink Houses"] until he made them stop and he used an ABBA song and a Frankie Valli song — it’s ridiculous and it’s setting a terrible example." I have to agree with that. Frankie Valli?
These kinds of battles are not new, of course — in 1984, Bruce Springsteen, also a not-Republican, stopped the Reagan campaign from using his song, "Born in the U.S.A." Reagan liked the fact that it had "U.S.A." in the title, though he was apparently unaware that the song is actually a somber tale about the hardships of returning Vietnam veterans.
With Springsteen’s permission, John Kerry used the song "No Surrender" during his 2004 campaign, although he later did, in fact, surrender.