Monday, February 22, 2010

Janice Hahn: Don't know much about copyright?

The campaign of LA City Councilwoman Janice Hahn (D), who is running for lieutenant governor, has run into some copyright trouble. Today the campaign released a video mocking San Francisco Mayor and potential LG candidate Gavin Newsom, who recently said he doesn't know what the lieutenant governor actually does:

Throughout the video, the Sam Cooke classic "Wonderful World" plays prominently. And, according to the owner of the composition, without a license from the copyright owner. The use of the song was "unauthorized," Valerie Collin, spokeswoman for publisher Abkco Music & Records, Inc., confirmed to me in an email. And, she added, the company is "dealing with [it] accordingly," without elaborating. (I believe Abkco also owns the master in the Sam Cooke recording but have not yet confirmed that.) I called and emailed the Hahn campaign for comment this morning but have not yet received a response.

So is it fair use? Under current law, I doubt it. The use is much more prominent and longer than the Ohio Republican Party's 2008 video that incorporated part of Jackson Browne's song "Running on Empty" to mock Barack Obama's energy policy. And it's much less transformative than California Senate Candidate Chuck DeVore's videos that took two Don Henley songs and swapped the lyrics with new ones mocking his opponent Barbara Boxer.

I don't expect this video to stay up on YouTube long. And Hahn's campaign could well be facing a pretty strong copyright suit. A license for the song, which has been featured prominently in movies including Animal House and Witness, can't come cheap.

Update Feb. 23: the Hahn campaign has removed its original video and replaced it with one that does not include "Wonderful World."

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