We blogged in August about campaign songs and trademark infringement. Copyright law also has its place in shaping how candidates can campaign. As the race for the U.S. presidency heats up, the candidates are spending record amounts on Internet advertising in this race (Jen Christensen of CNN reported earlier this summer that the candidates had a combined 2012 campaign spending total of over $20 million in the first few months of 2012 alone). When a candidate’s advertising miffs a copyright owner, however, a presidential candidate’s video is no less susceptible to takedown under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act than a video posted by an average citizen (e.g., the mother of a dancing toddler rocking out to Prince).
This fact was highlighted in July when music publisher BMG issued a takedown notice to YouTube claiming that an a advertisement by the Romney for President campaign featuring the now-famous clip of President Obama singing Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” was infringing. (When it was noted that the President’s own videos using the same clip were still up, BMG issued notices for those too.)
The fight over the Web’s powers is not new to presidential politics. In 2008, John McCain’s campaign complained to YouTube of the damage that potentially meritless takedown notices cause presidential campaigns and requested that YouTube undertake a fair-use analysis before pulling the plug on an ad. That was a responsibility that YouTube was unwilling to take on, and it refused to oblige.
As the issues of copyright protection and Internet freedom become all the more partisan, the use and abuse of the DMCA takedown may turn out to be a hot topic not only among techies and IP lawyers, but also for national politicians.
Stay in the know on copyright and other IP issues with the only practitioner guide you need: O’Connor’s Federal Intellectual Property Codes Plus.