Copyright Entanglement for Romney Ad with Obama Singing

The Romney camp got tangled in a music copyright claim in its bid to fire back at the Obama campaign’s jab at the former Massachusetts governor’s singing.


The Obama ad features Romney singing “America the Beautiful” at a campaign stop in Florida in January, while flashing cards about Mitt Romney’s wealth and allegations of outsourcing.

Yesterday, the Romney campaign responded with “Political Payoffs and Middle Class Layoffs,” an ad set to President Obama singing Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” at a January fundraiser at the Apollo Theater.

The music publisher’s attorneys apparently moved swiftly: The ad was quickly taken down and replaced with the notice that the video is no longer available because of a copyright claim by BMG Rights Management.

Last night, the Romney campaign defended its use of the footage as fair use and plans to fight to the claim. And they have some allies in that claim: at ArsTechnica, “The Romney ad seems like as clear-cut a case of fair use as can be imagined. Obama’s singing is a core part of the ad’s message, and copyright law explicitly mentions commentary and criticism as justifications for fair use. And it’s hard to imagine the ad harming the market for Al Green CDs or iTunes tracks.”

The appeals process, however, will delay any airing of the ad, which is down on Romney’s website and YouTube.


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