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Chords of Discord -- Rock Stars Sue Politicians for Using Songs Without Permission

By Michael E. Fox of Sedgwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold

Michael E. Fox is special counsel at Sedgwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold.  He draws upon more than two decades of business experience to focus his practice on media, entertainment and intellectual property law matters.  Fox represents clients, ranging from individuals and small companies to big businesses leading the American economy and ranked amongst the Fortune 100.  He can be reached at 949.567.7828 or via e-mail at

In recent years, a number of highly publicized lawsuits have focused America's attention on the fact that musical works are protected by copyright law. Therefore, it would seem that everyone, especially politicians, should know that permission is required to use a copyrighted song. Well, apparently, that is not always the case.

While Republican voters used the mid-term elections to rock the ballot boxes and roll new politicians into office, a few of the Republican candidates stepped on some rock 'n' roll copyright shoes during the dance. More specifically, a few Republican candidates allegedly used, without permission, classic rock 'n' roll songs in their campaigns that led up to the mid-term elections.

If politicians have not yet figured out that copyright law protects musical works, then they better learn quickly, because the times they are a changin'. Rock stars today are less likely to sit back and permit a politician to pirate a song for a political campaign commercial or otherwise. In fact, any politician considering such a move would be wise to consider the lyrics to Bob Dylan's song "The Times They Are A Changin'" - an anthem of change for the moment whose lyrics still ring true 47 years after Dylan penned them:

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that g...

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