Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Answers Are Blowing in the Wind

There are a lot of substantive issues that should be on the minds of the voting age public in the U.S., but if you check out the varied media headlines, you wouldn't know it. A short list of substantive issues includes the recent rise in unemployment, the projected $500 billion federal budget deficit, the war in Iraq, (costly in human lives and dollars), the 47 million Americans without health insurance, the oil price bingo game that we are all forced to play, and the ever growing national debt ($9.5 trillion and increasing by the minute). However, to my dismay, I find myself choosing to ignore all of those substantive topics to address some of the decoy topics that clutter up the media.
First up is Sarah Palin and the Heart song, Barracuda. It seems that one of Gov. Palin's nicknames as a high school basketball player as "Barracuda," and in honor of Palin's nickname, the Heart song was played on Wednesday and Thursday evening at the Republican National Convention (RNC). Sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, the front-women for the band Heart, didn't appreciate the appropriation of their song for use as Palin's theme song and have sent a "cease and desist letter" to the McCain and Palin camp.
I admit that I am a fan of the Wilson sister's band, Heart, and I am not a fan of Sarah Palin. However, while the Wilson sister's are within their rights to ask that the Palin campaign cease and desist from use of the song as her theme song, the Palin camp hasn't violated any copyright laws. Copyright is a tricky thing and it's not my area of legal expertise, but the one thing that law school stresses is that when you don't know the answer, do some legal research until you find it. Of course, you may wonder why I would care about this matter at all. I became intrigued because of another article that criticized the Obama camp for appropriating a Brooks and Dunn song, Only in America , to use as Sen. Obama's exit music at the close of his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention (DNC).  As I am a country music fan and a fan of Brooks and Dunn, I thought that it was a brilliant choice based on the song's chorus:
Only in America
Dreaming in red, white and blue
Only in America
Where we dream as big as we want to
We all get a chance
Everybody gets to dance
Only in America
There was one little glitch, Brooks and Dunn played the song at G. W. Bush's inauguration in 2000; Dick Cheney used it as his exit song at the 2004 RNC; and G. W. Bush used it frequently during his last campaign for office. I didn't have a problem with Obama re-purposing the song for his campaign; however, not everyone felt that magnanimous. Both of the performers, Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn declare themselves to be Republicans, although one of the song's co-writers, Don Cook, identifies himself as a Democrat.
Given that I find hypocrisy abhorrent, I had to ask myself, how could I side with Heart in their opposition to Palin's use of their song unless I was going to also condemn Obama for siphoning off Brooks and Dunn's song for his campaign purposes? As I was reading other blogs dealing with these song appropriation issues, I kept encountering a basic misunderstanding regarding copyright law and use provisions. I realized that if I did a pure legal analysis, that I had a basis for why both Palin and Obama had a legal right to use the songs as they wished.
The intent of singers and songwriters is to have their works heard. To support that intent, and preserve their rights a artists, their works are licensed to be heard in a variety of markets. We are all familiar with radio, but venues like concert and sporting arenas may also obtain a license to play a song. That music that you hear in the elevator is licensed. The way that this typically works is that the songwriters and performing artists contract with the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) to distribute their music. Any entity that is licensed with ASCAP can play a song distributed by ASCAP without getting the artist's explicit permission. So neither the Palin folks, nor the Obama camp had to ask the Wilson sisters or Brooks and Dunn for permission to use the music as long as they had secured the appropriate licensing from ASCAP.
However, nothing in the law is ever simple; if it were, lawyers would be out of work! The ASCAP license only allows a song to be performed; if you want to use the song in a political ad or a promotional video, you have to obtain a license from a publisher known as a "synchronization license." Singer Jackson Browne's lawsuit against the McCain campaign for using his song Running on Empty in an ad is based on a violation of the sync license law. There is a backdoor to a possible lawsuit even if the user has a license from ASCAP. If for instance, Palin used Heart's song to the extent that it becomes identified with Palin, then the Wilson sister's could sue under a claim of a violation of their "right to publicity," which allows you to protect your identity or image from being used for marketing purposes. However, the "right to publicity" laws vary from state to state and generally apply to commercial uses of an image, not political ads.
So the bottom line of this non-issue is that unless the Obama and Palin camps have totally lost their minds up in here and neglected to secure the appropriate  ASCAP licensing, they can play whatever song that they like and the rest of us need to adopt as our theme song, Blowing in the Wind, a song about issues of substance. Written by Bob Dylan and first released in 1963, the song has been recorded by numerous artists, including Dylan, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Joan Baez, Sam Cooke, and my personal favorite, a cover by Stevie Wonder in 1966. The video is the Stevie Wonder cover.
Blowin' In The Wind
How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
Yes, n how many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, n how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they're forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin in the wind,
The answer is blowin in the wind.

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, n how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, n how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin in the wind,
The answer is blowin in the wind.

How many years can a mountain exist
Before its washed to the sea?
Yes, n how many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free?
Yes, n how many times can a man turn his head,
Pretending he just doesn't see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin in the wind,
The answer is blowin in the wind.
(My next nonsense issue to be addressed in an upcoming entry: the woman who called in to the Michael Baisden Radio Show to announce that she couldn't vote for Barack Obama because he supported killing babies. Please Lord, deliver me from fools.)


rdautumnsage said...

Thanks for clearing this up hon. Paul and I were debating back and forth if the copyrights had been violated. Now we know...I absolutely love that song by Bob Dylan...I've even used it on my own journal once upon a time....

The answer, my friend, is blowin in the wind,
The answer is blowin in the wind.

Thanks for including the lyrics hon, it warms my heart that you did. It was nice to hear the melody within my heart and mind. (Hugs)Indigo

ceilisundancer said...

Two of my favorites when I was in high school were Heart, and jackson Browne.  Okay, Jackson was more college for ME, but he was big with some of my friends in high school.  And the Eagles, of course, and Styx, and "the" Boss (whose song Born in the USA was once used politically for a candidate he did not support).....

Thanks for stating the legal aspects of this.  That's why Jackson Browne's case has merit, and the others don't, yet, legally.  I still find use of any song that the artists asks NOT to be used, a bit well, it shouldn't be used, then, whether or not it's legal to use (and no matter which side of the political divide -- even if the song seems apt).

I explained to my daughter about the song Barracudda.  I was surprised that she could sing some of it, accurately.  Yeah!  See, Heart wrote that to describe the soullessness of the record industry at the time.  I have read where Heart finds it ironic that the RNC would want to use that song and image to help identify their VP nominee.  

luvrte66 said...

Hi Sheria, I didn't get an alert for this yesterday! Darn it!

I have one more entry in me about this, and then I'll be done with it. While I realize that this is a non-issue in the election, as a music lover I was just really curious about artists' control over their output. Thanks for your research about it, and I'll move past this soon. Sometimes I'm too curious for my own good, and just have to know the reasoning behind something.


gehi6 said...

I am scared to death to put any recognizable song in my videos up on Youtube because they warn you so heavily about violating copywrights etc, but I understand all this a little more after reading your discussion here, as to when the song becomes too identified with the one using it.  Which could happen in a video you make.  

gen0507 said...

I'm so sorry for the loss of your Mother.  Sending up prayers for you & your loved ones.


mereel2005 said...

I learned of the lost of your mum through Beth's blog. My husband and I would like to offer our sympathy.

lv2trnscrb said...

I'm sorry for the loss of your mother; I pray that people will "love" on you during this time; helping you with what needs to get done, sitting with you, reminiscing your mom with you, etc


sybilsybil45 said...

I have just heard the news that you Mon has died and just had to po in and say how sorry I am,  Much  Love  Sybil xxx

wwfbison said...

Sending you my deepest sympathies for the loss of your mother.

fowfies said...

I am new here and I come by way of another journal, but I wanted to express my heartfelt condolences. I am so sorry you lost your mother. Hugs, Kelly

lynk4bray said...

I read your blog and enjoy it very much.  I am very sorry to hear about you mom passing.  I lost my dad 2 1/2 months ago - and I know how it feels.  Very raw to me still.  I will pray for you and your mom.  Try and take care,

sanguinelioness said...

I am very sorry about your Mother's passing. Please know you and she will be in my prayers.

carouselqueen70 said...

Condolences my fellow J-lander on the passing of you mother. You can come visit my journal or e-mail me anytime. "struggling with my life" ...((((HUGS)))

lurkynat said...

My Deepest Condolences with the loss of your mother
Yours truly,

gazker said...

I'll write you. Gaz xxx

luddie343 said...

That last line had me lol.  Yeah, I remember the Clintons troubles with ASCAP when they used Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop (Thinkin About Tomorrow)" that's when most people found out what you can and can NOT do with the end product of an artist.  Be it a song or a new vacuum cleaner, it's not free.  Nor should it be. I had my consciousness raised at 14 in 1964 with Dylan's "BITW" and been singing it ever since.  Genius like that just....lasts.   xoxo CATHY