Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Jackson Browne Defeats John McCain

(McCain: Face the Nation, Karin Cooper; Browne: AP, Matt Sayles)

Updated, 9:35 a.m. (7/22): Chuck DeVore, the conservative California state assemblyman challenging Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in 2010, has written to us objecting to our comparison of the Jackson Browne v. John McCain case to Don Henley v. Chuck DeVore.

DeVore says the Browne v. McCain case, which was settled on Tuesday, is "very different." Unlike the pro-McCain video that used Browne's hit song "Running On Empty," DeVore's parodies using Henley's "Boys of Summer" and "All She Wants To Do Is Dance" tunes don't actually use Henley's lyrics, he points out.

"Henley's voice was not used," says DeVore, who made up his own lyrics and changed the title of his parody of Boxer to "All She Wants To Do Is Tax." Furthermore, he says, his video used a karaoke track instead of Henley's band. "Our case is more like Nader v. MasterCard," he claims.

Original Post:
Singer Jackson Browne has won his copyright battle against Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), getting an apology and an undisclosed sum of money from the 2008 presidential nominee for a pro-McCain Web video that appropriated the artist's hit song "Running On Empty."

McCain, the Republican National Committee and the Ohio Republican Party jointly settled the lawsuit and issued a statement Tuesday saying:

"We apologize that a portion of the Jackson Browne song 'Running On Empty' was used without permission. Although Senator McCain had no knowledge of, or involvement in, the creation or distribution of the Web campaign video, Senator McCain does not support or condone any actions taken by anyone involved in his 2008 presidential election campaign that were inconsistent with artists' rights or the various legal protections afforded to intellectual property."

McCain, the RNC and the Ohio GOP Party also pledged to get artists' permission in the future before using their work.

Browne, an outspoken liberal, insists his lawsuit was "not a partisan effort. This case was about artists' rights and trying to ensure that our intellectual property rights are respected."

Will Browne have some fun dedicating "Running On Empty" to McCain at his scheduled concert at Wolftrap outside Washington Wednesday night? Probably not, says Browne's publicist, Michael Jensen. "This isn't about him."

Browne's attorney, Lawrence Iser, tells The Sleuth that while the case isn't binding, it still sets a precedent for future political campaigns.

"What this case means is, just because you're running for office doesn't give you the right to use copyrighted works without license or permission," Iser, a partner with the Los Angeles (Santa Monica)-based firm known as KWIKA, said by telephone.

That would suggest that Don Henley of the Eagles, who is suing a Republican Senate candidate, stands to win his case. The defendant, Charles DeVore, is accused of misusing Henley's songs "The Boys of Summer" and "All She Wants To Do Is Dance" without authorization to attack Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

McCain's lawyer, Lincoln Bandlow, disagrees with Iser that the Jackson Browne v. John McCain et al. case is precedent-setting. He says it's "unique" and "doesn't really relate to any particular future use" of copyrighted songs in political ads or videos.

Neither McCain's nor Browne's lawyers would discuss the financial settlement, or how much McCain had to pay Browne compared to the RNC or the Ohio Republican Party.

The "Running On Empty" Web video was made by the Ohio GOP.

McCain has maintained that neither he nor his campaign had anything to do with the making of the video, which was intended as parody to lampoon Barack Obama for suggesting Americans should inflate their tires to save gas.

Yet McCain still settled -- final proof, more than six months after the election, that the "Running On Empty" gag backfired.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  July 21, 2009; 3:06 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Tim Geithner's Secret Crash Pad
Next: Rep. Weiner, Snubbed By Muslim-Jewish Group?


I wonder if the situation was different and it had been Obama who used Mr. Browne's music would he have taken Obama to court? Being that he is an outspoken liberal, and he doesn't have to admit that politics is involved here, surely he wouldn't have had the slightest issue with Obama using his music without permission. Come On, get real here.

Posted by: randypinner | July 21, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Get Real? Brown sued McCain because McCain's politics were inimical to him, whereas (maybe) Obama's weren't. There's no suggestion of hypocrisy. However, it is a nice little touch that McCain's campaign stole his song, reflecting the Party's attitude. Finally, you never saw McCain so happy or composed, as when he lost. He realized that he had over-compromised himself, becoming a mere figurehead for the neo-con base "base."

Posted by: Sargam | July 21, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Obama's campaign would've probably done the right thing and ASKED IN ADVANCE, dood...

How much more out of touch can the GOP and their dittoheads get...?

Remember when Reagan thought that "Born in the USA" was about a "young person being proud of American heritage"...?

Wow... Feel free to cross that bridge to the 20th century anytime, folks...

Posted by: LeroyTheRoadie1 | July 21, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse really doesn't matter. Browne has the rights. Even if you disagree with their politics, the law is on their side. Im certain there are plenty of conservative musicians that the Ohio GOP could have hijacked song lyrics from who would have been happy for the attention.

Posted by: schroedingerscat | July 21, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

What every happened to a similar battle between Heart and the McCain-Palin campaign over the use of "Barracuda?" Is that still unresolved?

Posted by: jlabe | July 21, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

It probably didn't help that McCain is a republican and Browne is not, but bottom line--artists make their livings from intellectual property rights, and they have every reason to protect them.

Posted by: KSVA | July 21, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

It just goes to show that the Republicants really are running on empty.

Posted by: COLEBRACKETT | July 21, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

I was thinking the same thing about how Reagan used "Born in the U.S.A" and Bruce shaking his head saying did he even listen to the words.
Talk about being out of touch

Posted by: mmalewitz | July 21, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

RE: Heart, Barracuda and Sarah Palin

I believe Heart ended up not having an actual case, as the McCain/Palin campaign used the song in venues that had paid for the rights to use songs that are in the RIAA (?) catalog.

Browne's case was based on the use of his song in political advertisements w/o permission, a specific use of the artist's work.

Posted by: JohnDinHouston | July 21, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Mr Browne has a right to control who uses his music. As a Republican and former fan of his I would say that this incident has garnered Jackson Browne the most publicity he has had in thirty years.
Congrats to Mr Browne!

Posted by: docfjs | July 21, 2009 4:14 PM | Report abuse

It doesnt matter whether Browne is a "liberal" or not. If Obama had used "God Bless the USA" or some halfwitted right wing diatribe by Toby Keith without permission, would the artists have been okay with that? Probably not. Did Kerry get permission from U2 to use "Beautiful Day" in 2004? Yes, he did. Did Clinton get permission from Fleetwood Mac to use "Dont Stop" in 1992? Yes, he did. So, Randy, your point is completely moot and irrelevant. An artist has every right to not want his music used in political campaigns without permission, mainly for the reason that some people might assume it was "authorized" and that the artist therefore supports that candidate. This decision was 100% correct.

Posted by: saintsubversive | July 21, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Well Browne's using to beating people or is that beating tall pretty blondes. Hmmm... McCain's a short ugly blonde. Very out of character for Jackson.

Posted by: billm32 | July 21, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

this isnt about politics: the party of property rights appropriated Mr Browne's property rights...

Posted by: ABethesda | July 21, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Does this mean that "Bob the Builder" can sue Obama for stealing his motto: "Yes We Can!"?

Posted by: steves4 | July 21, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

One would think that an aging and deservedly-obscure "artist" would be grateful for the exposure the McCain campaign provided for this long-ago forgotten song. It probably received more air-time during the election than the song has enjoyed cumulatively for the last twenty or so years. Of course, when a guy advertises that he's available to perform at birthday parties and business meetings, you gotta figure his career is pretty much "running on empty" anyway. Shades of "Spinal Tap."

Posted by: Rocks66 | July 21, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

The suit was politically motivated plain and simple. I really don't like it when "artists" use their talents to press a political agenda, therefore, I'm done listening to his music.

Posted by: mattiemo | July 21, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Typical Republican mentality... Take, take, take, and say NO to anything that benefits the country. Again, what do you expect from the people who wanted to put Sarah Palin a heartbeat from the presidency.

Posted by: angelou | July 21, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Jackson who?? Talk about running on empty, he just needed to fill his wallet. And it was absolutely political.

I hope the settlement wasn't any more than typical radio-play royalties.

Posted by: theDEA | July 21, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Republican senators think that because they are "The Government" they can break the laws and no one can say anything to them. The buck stops here. If I see or hear anything Im going straight to the news, and let the country tear them to pieces career wise.

Posted by: angelou | July 21, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

I guess the Republicans are just gonna have to use lame country music for their campaign songs. This probably explains why Guiliani didn't use the Clash's "Rudy Can't Fail".

Posted by: steves4 | July 21, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

"Jackson Browne Defeats John McCain"? Talk about your slant-laden headline! How about at least feigning impartiality, a la the BBC's "Browne settles over McCain song." (Although it admittedly wasn't a McCain song.) Okay, how about "McCain gets what's-his-face back in the headlines"?

Posted by: WashBinChumRoast | July 21, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

All the whiners here denigrating Browne, you just don't get it. Copyright is a property that belongs to its owner, and the owner can do whatever they choose with it. That's the law. What the Ohio McCain campaign did is called stealing. So, I guess stealing must be one of those famous "values" I always hear Republicans and conservatives talk so much about.

Posted by: Len_RI | July 21, 2009 5:08 PM | Report abuse

"Although Senator McCain had no knowledge of, or involvement in, the creation or distribution of the Web campaign video..."

If it was the Ohio GOP that put this out there, then Mr. Browne has no right to file complaint against the RNC or Sen. McCain. Did the video say "I approved this message" at the end? My guess is no. Mr. Browne is using this for publicity. and Sen. McCain is a stand-up guy for taking responsibility, even though he had nothing to do with it.

Posted by: wilyhusker | July 21, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

It probably didn't help that McCain is a republican and Browne is not, but bottom line--artists make their livings from intellectual property rights, and they have every reason to protect them.

Posted by: KSVA | July 21, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse
Especially when those violating their rights are not some 15 year old on a file sharing program but a national political campaign with more than enough cash to pay for the rights.

Posted by: billy8 | July 21, 2009 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Old Jackson hadn't had a hit since, well, "Running On Empty." That's probably a better analysis of his bank account before this lawsuit settled.

Forget everything else. Had McCain been a died in the wool liberal, he would not have been sued. End of story.

Posted by: swr112261 | July 21, 2009 5:11 PM | Report abuse

The choices of campaign music can be baffling! I guess the Ohio GOP knew nothing of Jackson Brown, or they'd have ruled his song anathema. Anyone remember Bill Bradley in the 2000 campaign using the Jefferson Airplane's "Volunteers" from 1969? The song is a call to take a stand against the US government and the war in Vietnam - more of a call to anarchy than a campaign rallying cry. As for current events: theft of intellectual property is theft - even when the GOP does it!

Posted by: ted59b | July 21, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Even if Browne initiated the case out of a dislike for McCain's politics, that does not excuse the unauthorized use of a copyrighted song. The folks in the campaigns are adults and certainly knew better. Most of the comments have nothing whatsoever to do with the merits of the case.

Posted by: Sutter | July 21, 2009 5:26 PM | Report abuse

If frogs had wings, they wouldn't bump their a$$es.

Jackson Browne owns the copyright for the song. That's all that's relevant here; no court would consider the political allegiances of the parties in a case. Only dimwits make an issue of it.

Liberal or conservative, you would expect a presidential candidate (particularly after Reagan's "Born in the U.S.A." debacle and Napster) to have someone on the campaign staff who would know that songs are intellectual property and that intellectual property, legally, must be respected. Apparently McCain didn't have or didn't listen to such a person.

Posted by: jlhare1 | July 21, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

"Forget everything else. Had McCain been a died in the wool liberal, he would not have been sued. End of story."

Posted by: swr112261

Hey swr112261,

Fyi, the expression is "dyed in the wool"--now that's the end of story!

--A helpful liberal :)

Posted by: thebone | July 21, 2009 5:54 PM | Report abuse

Funny - A washed-up, has-been, pop-rocker trying desperately to remain relevant.

You'd think this moron would be pleased that ANYONE wanted to give one of his tired, old durges airplay, but no.

Yep JB you sucked way back when, and now - you're just a tired old a-hole.

Posted by: Tim_CA | July 21, 2009 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Thou shalt not steal, Republicans.

Posted by: hamishdad | July 21, 2009 6:20 PM | Report abuse

It is even worse than that. Let's say Jackson Browne is a big supporter of Obama, and Obama wants to use his song in an ad for his reelection campaign. If Browne lets Obama use the song for free, then hasn't Browne just made a political contribution? If the rights are worth more than $2,300 (or whatever the max. is for contributions), then Browne and Obama just violated the law, right? So Brown has to charge, even if he likes the candidate.

Posted by: Dan4 | July 21, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

jackson browne? good heavens, i barely remember the name from when i was a little kid just getting into music. didn't know he was still alive, this is great PR for him... maybe make him a comeback for a few months...

as for politicians using tunes without permission, i'm in the business and i wouldn't mind it at all, if they used my music, provided they paid up front!

i think most of these guys are suing for political, or publicity reasons...

what goes around, comes around... i'd say they aren't winning any friends and influencing any people with this... when the other side is back in power, the hammer will fall the other way...

Posted by: maddestmike | July 21, 2009 6:33 PM | Report abuse

There must be some maximum IQ limit to be a conservative, and if you exceed it, you can't join. For example, the comment above by "maddestmike" -- he wouldn't mind at all if they used his music, "provided they paid up front!" But he's critical of Jackson Browne for wanting someone to ask permission. Amazing.
If Rush tells you to say it, just say it. Ditto.

Posted by: KidTJ | July 21, 2009 6:51 PM | Report abuse

The anti-Browne comments in this forum are pathetic. Why can't the Republicans find a singer/songwriter that shares their political ideology and writes memorable songs? The Right wing complains about the big bad entertainment industry being on the side of the Left but is forced to misappropriate the works of people like Browne because there are few of them of any merit in their political camp. Most Republicans are not interested in anything other then making money anyway and few have any artistic or musical inclinations. Songwriting like all art is a very iffy proposition as far as an occupation is concerned. The vast number of artists, actors, writers, musicians, etc. must work an additional job to support themselves. Why go into art or music when you can be a hedge fund manager and pull in the big bucks?

BTW, it's better to be a washed up has been then a never was.

Posted by: dldbug | July 21, 2009 7:05 PM | Report abuse

"Yet McCain still settled -- final proof, more than six months after the election, that the "Running On Empty" gag backfired."

What is this sentence even supposed to mean?

Was there other proof offered?

Isnt it more like 8 months?

Why gag? What do you think the gag was? Was the gag supposed to be on Browne, Obama, the record company, who?

What makes you think it backfired? Maybe he would have lost by more votes without the tactic. All you know is that he said "sorry" for something he didnt actually cause in the first place paid some amount of money, maybe the nominal performance amount.

And, finally, after 6+months the Ohio GOP has been proven correct about Obama running on empty.

Posted by: edta | July 21, 2009 7:14 PM | Report abuse

maddestmike -

guess you can see Jackson Browne at Wolf Trap tomorrow - oh, no you can't since it's SOLD OUT all 7500 tix. Of course, since you probably did not buy his album that came out earlier in 2009, or the two critically praised live albums of 2008 and 2007, which were best sellers, or even his studio album of 2004 - what one can only assume is that you do not listen to the radio, buy CD's, or have never owned a record player. Browne continues to play sold out concerts all over the world. Too bad that even his "worst" song contains more intelligence than your ilk (the pathetic anti-Browne commentators) could muster in 10 lifetimes.

Posted by: Duke69 | July 21, 2009 7:22 PM | Report abuse

maddestmike -

guess you can see Jackson Browne at Wolf Trap tomorrow - oh, no you can't since it's SOLD OUT all 7500 tix. Of course, since you probably did not buy his album that came out earlier in 2009, or the two critically praised live albums of 2008 and 2007, which were best sellers, or even his studio album of 2004 - what one can only assume is that you do not listen to the radio, buy CD's, or have never owned a record player. Browne continues to play sold out concerts all over the world. Too bad that even his "worst" song contains more intelligence than your ilk (the pathetic anti-Browne commentators) could muster in 10 lifetimes.
Well that's what happens if the only radio you listen to is AM. I understand that the sound fidelity in that band is terrible and only suitable for blow hards and demagogues.

Posted by: dldbug | July 21, 2009 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Kudos to you Jackson Browne! The RNC had absolutely NO right using your music without your written approval/permission. I wonder if Heart is also going to sue the RNC for the illegal use of their song barracuda? I HOPE SO!!!!!! Good luck to you also Don Henley!! It is of the utmost importance that you do not allow these fear mongering, corrupted criminals push you around.

Posted by: LKM2 | July 21, 2009 8:22 PM | Report abuse

You folks that complain that the artist would not have sued Obama for the same copyright violation have zero understanding of copyright law. Think of it this way. The artist has the right to EXCLUDE infringers much like a landowner may exclude trespassers he does not like. I may sue McClain for coming onto my PROPERTY but welcome trespasser Obama. It is my choice as the land owner. This is why it is called INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY and is protected by the Constitution that gives exclusive rights to authors to exclude infringers (trespassers). Read it sometime and weep.

Posted by: Truckbomb | July 21, 2009 9:34 PM | Report abuse

I am so thankful that the lawsuit turned out like it did. Not only for Jackson Browne but also for artists in the future in defense of their copyright rights. John McCain's apology is pretty amazing in itself. What would have only made it better would have been if McCain had apologized to Browne when he was performing in Phoenix the night before the election. Then, the audience could have enjoyed it, too. And in regards to the negative comments about Jackson Browne in regards to him beating Daryl Hannah, they have both denied it happening. And also, charges were never filed either. This is signed by a Arizona resident who is so thankful that Obama won!

Posted by: cleetrap | July 21, 2009 9:36 PM | Report abuse

Jackson Browne has been politically active for decades so it's no secret how he leans politically.

Plus, issues of intellectual property rights & copyright has been big news for years.

I can't presume to know why the GOP was so stupid here.

Posted by: dadada | July 21, 2009 11:52 PM | Report abuse

As someone who has spent a great deal of money on Jackson's music and who really appreciated his work, I can only say that this kind of nonsense turns me off. He should be happy to see his music publicized since he's pretty much running on empty now himself. I wouldn't like it any better if he was complaining about the Democrats using his song. Frankly, he and Heart have both diminished my admiration for them by their actions.

Posted by: Lilycat1 | July 22, 2009 8:58 AM | Report abuse

LOL - hahahahaha
McCain, GOP, RNC you all deserve it! Think you all can just do and say whatever your sick minds want...
Way to go, Browne! Some of the republican party politicians should be sued for slander and many of them jailed for treason. The GOP is not looking out for the interests of the working population, never have and never will.

Posted by: MrsLfromTexas | July 22, 2009 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Regarding "Does this mean that "Bob the Builder" can sue Obama for stealing his motto: "Yes We Can!"?" posted by steves4 | July 21, 2009 4:41 PM, get real, Steve. "Yes we can!" is an utterance and no more protected than utterances like "I'm sorry," "Excuse me" or "Go to hell." The issue here is intelletual property such as songs, not mere uncopyrighted--and uncopyrightable--phrases.

Posted by: CallmeIsmael | July 22, 2009 9:04 AM | Report abuse


The law is the law.

Posted by: trident420 | July 22, 2009 9:05 AM | Report abuse

Why didn't he use one of Hank Williams Jr's songs as no democrat that I know will ever buy anything of his again. I don't even hear his name anymore since the republican convention {Too many drugs perhaps}

Posted by: SWAMPYPD | July 22, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Love to see all the comments from people on the ACORN payroll...OUR tax dollars at work

and, btw, hope Jackson Browne loves the reduced income from his "royalties"...half of this country is conservative...LOLOLOLOL

Posted by: tshep21 | July 22, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

The first comment is spurious indeed. the reason for the suit is immaterial. Surely anyone running for the Senate would be aware of the law protecting property of music groups. But I appreciate that McCain was only tangential in this case but he is accepting the decision without a lot of disgusting "grumping". the decision was rather mundane and I am sure McCain realized that it was useless to do anything but to pay up. Good for him I say. it was the only honest thing to do. No need to discuss president. The law is plain and did not need a president to bolster the plaintiffs side.

Posted by: mJJ2 | July 22, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

I bet if it were a liberal using their song they would not say a word.

Posted by: yokohlman | July 23, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Who are all these clueless cretins who think Jackson Browne is irrelevant and hasn't had a hit since "Runnin' on Empty"? Oh, that's right - Limbaugh dittoheads. YAWN. Newsflash: Jackson Browne is still active, relevant and selling out venues all over the world, including Wolf Trap, where I saw him last night. And trust me, nobody there had forgotten "Runnin' on Empty". Everybody was on their feet singing along. Browne is still making kick-a$$ music that speaks eloquently to the human condition. At this point in his career, I doubt that he cares much about the financial gain, if he ever did. I know Repubs can't wrap their brains around such a concept, but there it is. He actually cares more about the music and making a statement with it. And, more importantly, not only to me, but I'm sure to him, he is also engaging in humanitarian efforts all over the globe, including combatting hunger through WHY, and calling out idiot politicians that continue foreign policy that makes this country the laughingstock of the world. And yes, I'd stand up for Toby Keith's right to defend his copyrighted music if a Democrat had used it without getting the proper permission, too. It's nothing to do with politics - it's copyright law, period.

Posted by: Suckitup | July 23, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Randy Pinner - Please note that McCain is the one who stands for the power of private property - and intellectual property is a serious sector of the future U.S. economy. For him to duck intellectual property rules is a major policy error, unless you consider blatant hypocrisy to be a qualification for the presidency.

Not all creative artists are liberal - would you penalize everyone, or would you change the rules when "your side" found their rights in question?

A real concern with McCain was his thinking that the shift to electronic media was simply a shift to electronic mail. Research in progress has already noted physical changes in the brains of early users of computers. More of the brain is active. McCain's failure to understand this was not a function of his age, but of his attitudes, and it did not speak well of his potential ability to govern.

Posted by: carolc1 | July 24, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

I cannot tell you how encouraged I am by this comment section. It seems recently that every comment section I read on the internet is ruled by wing nuts incapable of rational thought or lucid communication.

Thank you(!) to all who took the time to remind the unknowing or the "ignoring" that Jackson Browne is still relevant in 2009 and that the issue herein is about a simple interpretation of law.

Posted by: Postie3 | July 24, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

My thanks go out to Jackson Browne - for defending his rights. I don't care about all the political slandering I have read in the previous comments, on both sides. His rights were violated by people who should have known better and they ended up on the wrong side of the law. I know that Jackson Browne has contributed his talent many times for charitable events and to say that he did it for the money is just a lot of b.s.

Posted by: kmcgrath1 | July 26, 2009 8:05 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company