David Byrne sues Florida governor over campaign ad

By | Published on Wednesday 26 May 2010

Most artists hate it when political parties adopt their music for election campaigning, especially if it’s a party said artists wouldn’t choose to publicly support. But, as previously reported, when political types choose to use records at political rallies held in venues that hold public performance licences from the relevant collecting societies, there is nothing said aggrieved artists can do, because using music at events like that is covered by blanket licences.

However, if a politician uses a song without permission on a video – in a sync scenario – there is a case under copyright law to sue for infringement, which is what David Byrne is doing in America. He is suing Florida Governor Charlie Crist for a neat million dollars after the one time Republican used the classic Talking Heads song ‘Road To Nowhere’ on his website and in a YouTube-hosted video as part of his campaign for a seat in the US Senate (he’s a “one time Republican” because he’s running for the Senate seat as an independent).

Commenting on his lawsuit, Byrne said this week: “It’s not about politics, it’s about copyright … though [Crist using the track] does imply that I would have licensed it and endorsed him and whatever he stands for”.

Byrne is being represented by Lawrence Iser, the same attorney who worked for Jackson Browne who, as previously reported, won an out of court settlement from US presidential wannabe John McCain after he used a Browne track without permission on a YouTube posted advert. Commenting on his new case, Iser told reporters: “I was fairly astonished that this soon after the settlement of Browne v McCain, yet another politician with national aspirations is doing this again”.