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Jackson Browne v. John McCain - Heading to Trial?

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is not out of the woods on one pending legal matter involving his presidential campaign.

A federal district court in Los Angeles over the weekend declined to dismiss singer Jackson Browne's lawsuit against the senator and the Republican National Committee for the unauthorized use of his song "Running On Empty" in a political Web video.

Browne, an outspoken liberal, sued McCain, the RNC and the Ohio Republican Party for copyright infringement last August after the state party used his famous song in an online video promoting McCain's presidential candidacy.

The rocker's attorney, Lawrence Iser, says the court's decision this past weekend is a "solid victory for songwriters and performers and reflects an affirmation of their intellectual property rights and their freedom from being conscripted as involuntary endorsers of political candidates and campaign messages."

He adds, "We look forward to presenting Jackson Browne's case to the jury."

The McCain campaign also has released a statement -- a very legalistically worded one -- even though Browne's lawsuit was aimed at McCain himself, not his campaign.

"The McCain campaign is disappointed that the Court declined to dismiss Jackson Browne's suit about the Ohio Republican Party's political video, despite the fact that the Court found that Browne's claims arise out of protected speech activity under California's Anti-SLAPP statute and that the evidence was undisputed that Senator McCain 'played no part in the creation or dissemination' of the video," reads the statement issued by the McCain campaign's outside counsel, Lincoln Bandlow.

Ironically, even though it was the Ohio Republican Party that made the online ad, the L.A. judge dismissed Browne's suit against the Ohio state party while declining to dismiss the RNC's and McCain's motions to dismiss the copyright suit, as Copyrights and Campaigns blogger Ben Sheffner notes.

For his party, McCain has claimed to be clueless about any video using Jackson Brown's song.

The senator filed a declaration last summer in response Browne's lawsuit claiming, "I was not involved at all in any way in the writing, creation, production, distribution, or dissemination of the video, nor do I have any knowledge whatsoever of how this video was written, created, produced, distributed or disseminated or who was involved in any aspect of the writing, creation, production, distribution or dissemination of the video. I was completely unaware that this video even existed until I was informed of it after this lawsuit was filed."

Odds are extremely long that this case will ever go to trial. But keep hope alive, courtroom thrill seekers, for a Jackson Browne v. John McCain showdown.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  February 23, 2009; 12:40 PM ET
 
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Comments

does the ad have the "i'm John McCain and I approve this message" or similar phrase?

If so would be hard for him to claim he had nothing to do with it. Even though in reality politicians often don't see all their ads. the law was put into place to hold candidates responsible for the ads run by their campaigns, etc.

Posted by: JohnMike | February 23, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

slow news day?

Posted by: dovelevine | February 23, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Of course McCain was ignorant of what his machine was doing as he is ignorant of everything else - if not just oblivious. McCain's people will want to settle without a trial after this blow but I hope Browne's attorney stipulates an admission of copyright violation.

Posted by: bfjackjernigan | February 23, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

It ought to be a class-action suit against the RNC with Heart and Aerosmith joining the fold.

I guess Repubs just don't respect the law, they don't want to fund artists, they just want to steal their work when it suits them.

Posted by: JRM2 | February 23, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

"Running on Empty" is on sale on i tunes for 99 cents. As long as the campaign reimbursed the artist for public usage, there's no case.

Posted by: capsfan77 | February 23, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

The Borgen Project (www.borgenproject.org) has some good info on addressing the issues of global poverty.

$30 billion USD: The annual shortfall to end global poverty.
$550 billion USD: The annual US defense budget.

Posted by: concernedcitizen111 | February 23, 2009 5:53 PM | Report abuse

How strange that those who earn a living through the marketplace for art tend to reject Republicans out of hand. Who cares if you're played like a pawn in the most zombified aspect of the culture wars--when the GOP wants to eat you brain, who are you, Mr. Browne, to say no?

Kidding aside, why is it still profitable for a candidate to misappropriate art for political advantage? Increase the penalty: no candidate who abuses--and contends with--an unwilling artist should be recognized on the ballot. Blatant propaganda isn't the worst crime in the world, but it's surely more slippery than smoking ganj.

Just let the chips lie where they've fallen: the GOP gets Buffalo 66 and the third Hank Williams (yeah, granddad would respect the Monday Night crock!); the respectable voters get everyone else, no matter how lame or awesome.

Posted by: applestuff | February 23, 2009 5:53 PM | Report abuse

RE: "Running on Empty" is on sale on i tunes for 99 cents. As long as the campaign reimbursed the artist for public usage, there's no case.

Well, except you are partially correct. They need to have paid for "public use" rights, not the 99 cents. 99 cents buys you the song for your own personal use. The artist sets the price for public usage, which by law, permission must be granted from the artist before any use other than personal. So, unless they have a document with a signed receipt showing that they paid whatever price the artist is selling the rights for AND given permission to do so, there is very much to base a case on. :-)

Posted by: AerosmithNirvana1 | February 23, 2009 6:42 PM | Report abuse

I don't know why McCain used the song in the first place. Running on Empty is a great piece of music but when Jackson Browne wrote it he wasn't referring to lack of ethics, honesty or brains so how does it work for McCain?

Posted by: daviddial | February 23, 2009 7:36 PM | Report abuse

"I don't know why McCain used the song in the first place..."

Well, see, the Republicans think a lot like the (fictional) band Spinal Tap. The band had volume control knobs on their amps that went up to 11 instead of the usual 10. To them that meant something, even though it's the amplifier and how it works and not the label on the knob that matters. The Republicans think at the "label on the knob" level. Your logical question is absolutely beyond their comprehension.

Posted by: hewhoasks | February 23, 2009 8:02 PM | Report abuse

Well, now some of us have heard of Jackson Browne, who would otherwise never know he existed. I guess he has benefited from the use and is doing this just for the hype.

From that point of view, it's probably a good idea. Of course if he gets ugly, he'll lose all he gained--and more.

Posted by: turryl | February 24, 2009 7:32 AM | Report abuse

Yeah... I mean, the dude living in a cave who has never heard of Jackson Browne almost has a point. If it weren't for that the fact that he doesn't have a clue, that is...

Posted by: jehovahjones | February 24, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse

If the song had been anything worth listening to I would see the fuss but the crap this jerk puts out isn't worth the 99cents even if you threw in all of his other tripe

Posted by: skpfoss | February 24, 2009 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Hell the only reason they (RNC) ran McCain was to insure Hussein would win it was a set up from the beginning for the Half breed to win, but they almost screwed when they picked Paylin to run,she drew in crowds the they never expected and it scared the hell out of them ,thats why the shut her up as fast as they did. Had they turned her loose the whole election might have changed and if Mcswine had stood up and backed what she had to say about the half assed half beed Muslim

Posted by: skpfoss | February 24, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

I think we just got our first glimpse at what a McCain presidency would have been like -- full of carefully phrased legalese and denial.

Hey John, you were supposed to be the leader of your party and the leader of your campaign. Take some responsibility for the things that happened on your watch!

Show us some of that "I know how to reach across the aisle" that you promised us during the campaign, and apologize to Mr. Browne. Who knows, you might even gain a supporter :)

Posted by: goaway41 | February 24, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Those comments that state that anyone can down load and listen to the song for 99 cents are correct. The number of people that heard the advertisement, times 99 cents would be a reasonable settlement for infringement of the songrights. Downloading, reproducing, or recreating artistic properties for any commercial use, without consent is not legal. This is a perfect example why the country is better off without McCain as President. You would never hear him claim that the buck stops with him.

Posted by: lynnlm | February 24, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Postscriptum: 14 August 2008. Jackson Browne, in 1986, sang against Reagan and his group’s transgressions in Central America, in Lives in the Balance. He has campaigned against nuclear arms and other political and humanitarian issues. He has given no indication of being in tune with Republicans. The Republicans are using his song, Running on Empty, against Obama. The party of owner’s rights, is transgressing the copyright of an artist. Theft, hypocrisy and entitlement; that makes for an, apt, party slogan. Earlier in this campaign, they stole from Mellencamp (another who certainly doesn’t share their views), ABBA and Frankie Valli. Why can’t Republicans campaign without theft and distortion? Snakes have the nature of snakes. But, it must seem to them, that it so unfair that honest, creative talent is always in the camp of Democrats.

This is from a blog: a catholic democrat from ohio

Posted by: bandersnatch911 | February 24, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

How about campaigning against clogging the courts up with pointless law suits? The only one cheering for this suit is Mr. Brownes lawyer. Billable hours, just the thing everyone is complaining about. BTW, his candidate won. Enough, isn't he concerned with change? Speaking of a waste of time, why are you losers supporting Jackson Brownes lawyers?

Posted by: colinjcoghlan | February 24, 2009 8:07 PM | Report abuse

Other than colinjcoghlan, (the last posting at this time)the rest of you AND Jackson Browne are all losers. Get a life for God's sake!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm almost ashamed that I listened to and liked JB's music back in the early 1970's.

Posted by: rcarson1 | February 24, 2009 8:50 PM | Report abuse

Doesn't Jackson Browne have a woman to beat up?

Posted by: theatom | February 25, 2009 7:54 AM | Report abuse

Well, except you are partially correct. They need to have paid for "public use" rights, not the 99 cents. 99 cents buys you the song for your own personal use. The artist sets the price for public usage, which by law, permission must be granted from the artist before any use other than personal. So, unless they have a document with a signed receipt showing that they paid whatever price the artist is selling the rights for AND given permission to do so, there is very much to base a case on. :-)

I wasn't partially right, I was 100% right--I clearly said if they "reimbursed the artist for public usage".

Posted by: capsfan77 | February 25, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

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