Saturday, July 3, 2010

Patty Murray campaign pulls video that used Billy Joel song

The campaign of Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) has pulled a campaign video from YouTube due to copyright concerns over inclusion of a portion of the Billy Joel song "Only the Good Die Young." According to a report in the Spokane Spokesman-Review, the video was meant to jab Murray's GOP opponent Dino Rossi, who recently referred (in jest, it appears) to those who don't support his campaign as "sinners." The video included the portion of the song in which Joel sings, "I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints/The sinners are much more fun." "It did seem to be the perfect song," Murray's spokeswoman told the paper. The campaign took down the video after being contacted by the Spokesman-Review; there's no indication that Joel or his record label complained.

It's impossible to say whether the video at issue was infringing without knowing more, including how much of the song was included. If it was just a few lines, the campaign might have a fairly decent fair use defense. But of course it's hard to blame them for taking the cautious route; their energy should be devoted to winning their race, not litigating interesting copyright issues.

Lastly, for the umpteenth time, is it really that hard for reporters to get the facts of Jackson Browne's 2008 copyright suit correct? The Spokesman-Review wrote, "John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign was sued by Jackson Browne when it used 'Running on Empty'..." Wrong. The McCain campaign did not "use" the song. As this sworn declaration makes clear, the song was included in a video made by a staffer at the Ohio Republican Party -- not the McCain campaign. And Browne did not sue the McCain campaign -- he sued John McCain in his individual capacity.

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