July 17, 2012

After Obama's ad mocked Romney's singing, Romney responded with an ad that used Obama's singing "Let's Stay Together."

And now the ad is gone, due to a copyright claim. The campaign says "Our use was 100% proper, under fair use, and we plan to defend ourselves." I'm 95% sure that's correct. But:

1. "Let's Stay Together" is a beautiful, well-loved song that belongs to all of us, and we're all hurt if it is appropriated into a hostile, political context.

 2. A candidate who supports business and free enterprise should respect property, and it's Al Green's song. There's a legal limit to his property right in his song, and I don't think the Romney campaign overstepped that limit, but there's still a social space within which we might want to show respect for the owner. Think about how you feel about the public sidewalk in front of your house. Would you stand on the sidewalk outside somebody's house if you knew it was bothering them? I wouldn't. It's a matter of living together in harmony, beyond the call of legalities.

3. Obama is very attractive in his singing-like-Al-Green mode. Romney shouldn't even want to display that. It's Obama at his most likable. And he's been losing in the likability contest. Don't remind us why we've been liking the President... whether times are good or bad, happy or sad... oh! why do people break up...

IN THE COMMENTS: Paul Zrimsek said:
If you’ve got a hit song — you didn’t sing that. Somebody else made that happen.

63 comments:

chickelit said...

Who is BMG_Rights_Management? Who runs them and funds them? Can we associate any faces with such a faceless corporation? Do corporations have faces?

Tom Spaulding said...

Bye Bye Birdie meets A Face in the Crowd.

Again.

rehajm said...

"Let's Stay Together" is a beautiful, well-loved song that belongs to all of us

...respect property, and it's Al Green's song

And women have higher IQs than men. Sheesh..

chickelit said...

BMG Rights Management = Barack's Media Giant Rights Management

#BMGRightsManagment

Tom Spaulding said...

The way the flames cast playful shadows across his noble visage...the sweet, dulcet tones of the catgut...this is Nero at his most endearing.

Christopher in MA said...

"Let's Stay Together" is a beautiful, well-loved song that belongs to all of us.

And just what do you think America the Beautiful is?

God, the Boomer generation can't die off soon enough.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

I'll say this for you, Ann - you don't embarrass easy.

the wolf said...

I found Obama's singing annoying.

chickelit said...

3. Obama is very attractive in his singing-like-Al-Green mode.

TMI. Back to fantasies?

Bob Ellison said...

Tough call. I'm lousy at political marketing, but it seems that the Romney concept is to emphasize Obama's "likeability" (sp?) so as to diminish Obama's apparent competence. It might work, but overall, I agree with the Professor: simply don't draw attention to things Obama does well.

Michael said...

I agree with the Professor. Romney should steer clear of this, especially since Obama's riff was pretty good and made him seem like a regular guy versus the asshole he actually is.

Paul Zrimsek said...

If you’ve got a hit song -- you didn’t sing that. Somebody else made that happen.

EMD said...

THIS COUNTRY IS WHOLLY FUCKED IF WE ARE ARGUING ABOUT WHICH CANDIDATE CAN SING AL GREEN TUNES VERSUS WHICH ONE CAN AT THE BARE MINIMUM PROMOTE SOME SHRED OF REAL ECONOMIC GROWTH.

EMD said...

Damn. Zrimsek already won.

Darcy said...

Yep. Zrimsek.

Obama is never "very attractive" to me. But yeah, a lot of women swoon. And then they vote.

Ugh.

Leland said...

I'm with Paul. Not only that, but in Romney's Ad, its Obama singing it. Doesn't that make it Obama's material, not Al Greens? Al needs to redistribute that wealth a little.

tiger said...

Obama singing one of my all-time favorite songs (I've never heard a bad version by anyone) has tainted it.

Truly Obama is self-centered hack.

garage mahal said...

Republicans always seem to have an awfully tough time with using music in their campaigns.

Mid-Life Lawyer said...

I don't think Obama is at all attractive in the clip of him singing...."They said I wouldn't do it..."

Arrogant, narcissistic Obama in full flower.

Darcy said...

There's no mystery to it, garage.

Hint: It is not really a knock on Repubs, though I know you think it is.

(And hi!)

Shanna said...

And just what do you think America the Beautiful is?

My thought as well.

Let's stay together isn't sacred.

cubanbob said...

How about a montage of Obama's and the democrats promises, assertions and lies ending with a photo of an unemployment line with "we are in the money"
as the background music theme. Fade to black and the tag line of "who do you believe? the democrats or your lying eyes?" "On November 6th, from the white house to the governors mansion to city hall, from Congress to the state legislature to the city council, vote Republican."

Shanna said...

There's no mystery to it, garage.

No, Darcy, there isn't. Annoying, though.

Jaske said...

Me

garage mahal said...

Darcy (hi back!)
So what is your thoughts about why?

MadisonMan said...

It's a mistake for Romney to follow Obama's lead in crafting political ads.

Stick to script Mitt.

Calypso Facto said...

if it is appropriated into a hostile, political context

Like when it's sung by a politician at a political rally?

But then it's wrong for another politician to notice that the first politician has used the song politically?

These games where the rules get made up on the fly are SO tough to keep up with!

Dust Bunny Queen said...

How about a montage of Obama's and the democrats promises, assertions and lies ending with a photo of an unemployment line with "we are in the money"

I think this song would be more appropriate. Unfortunately...Paul McCartney would never allow it.

Let me tell you how it will be
There's one for you, nineteen for me
'Cos I'm the taxman
Yeah, I'm the taxman
Should five percent appear too small
Be thankful I don't take it all
'Cos I'm the taxman
Yeah, I'm the taxman
If you drive a car, I'll tax the street
If you try to sit, I'll tax your seat
If you get too cold, I'll tax the heat
If you take a walk, I'll tax your feet
Taxman
'Cos I'm the taxman
Yeah, I'm the taxman
Don't ask me what I want it for
(taxman mr. Wilson)
If you don't want to pay some more
(Taxman mr. Heath)
'Cos I'm the taxman
Yeah, I'm the taxman
Now my advice for those who die
Declare the pennies on your eyes
'Cos I'm the taxman
Yeah, I'm the taxman
And you're working for no one but me
Taxman.

Darcy said...

@garage
My thoughts are that successful musicians and actors are mostly socialists. It's fascinating, in a way. They've benefited greatly from capitalism, but really despise the champions of it.

Anyway. No big mystery here.

FedkaTheConvict said...

hmmm...there are at least 3,750 versions of Obama singing Let's Stay Together currently on YouTube. Let me know when BMG makes copyright claims against those clips; they certainly all can't be editorial use.

Bender said...

Would you stand on the sidewalk outside somebody's house if you knew it was bothering them? I wouldn't. It's a matter of living together in harmony, beyond the call of legalities.

So you wouldn't stand on the sidewalk in front of their home, but you would -- as you are here -- stand there a little further away, wagging your finger and complaining about what they are doing, telling them what they should be doing instead, in some sort of disharmoneous attempt to shame them.

bagoh20 said...

If you want that kind of President, vote for the real Al Green. The closest available this time was Herman Cain.

BTW, is Obama an authentic version of anything?

Bob Ellison said...

garage, you're right, and it is a mystery. In the country-music community, rightist themes (patriotism, masculinity, etc.) are common and widely accepted. In the pop-music community, rightist themes are generally rejected in favor of leftism. Even Neil Diamond might beg the RNC not to use "America" as a theme song.

Why the mystery? Popular things, like America, usually attract artists. Rightism is popular in America. Country music feeds that attraction. Country music is also famously (among music marketing folks) undersold.

The question, I say, is why are music people so bent upon marketing leftist crap that the public doesn't really want?

Christopher in MA said...

So what is your thoughts about why?

Simple. Most popular songs which are enlisted for a political campaign - a practice which I loathe, by the way - are songs written by leftist musicians who want to keep their desperately fraying street cred by denying use to those awful, nasty, racist, homophobe Republicans. It's way for dressage-enthusiast salt of the earth Joisey woikin' men like BRUUUCE! to pretend they're just the same as the stiff slugging down PBR at the local tap after 15 hours of soul-crushing factory labor (after which, he goes home and dad slices him in two with a bread knife).

edutcher said...

OK, so Ann's down with the Romster respecting copyright law.

Ann Althouse said...

Obama is very attractive in his singing-like-Al-Green mode. Romney shouldn't even want to display that. It's Obama at his most likable.

Actually, it's Choom at his phoniest and most narcissistic.

And he's "attractive in his singing-like-Al-Green mode" only if you like that dog-whistle falsetto.

(and, no, I never liked Frankie Valli or Leo Sayer, either)

Dust Bunny Queen said...

My thoughts are that successful musicians and actors are mostly socialists. It's fascinating,

Socialism is a fantasy idea that can only survive in a world that doesn't face reality. Idealism without thought of consequence.

Since "successful" musicians and actors can live in a fantasy world they can dream the impossible dream.....plus they haven't run out of their own money yet.

You are astute. Their success is based completely on the system of capitalism yet they rail against the system that made them wealthy beyond anyone's dreams. Should their work, their intellectual products and their labor be appropriated and shared by the people as represented by the State....they would be squealing like stuck pigs.

As pointed out. After all, they didn't make those songs or movies themselves. The government did it.....so.....cough up the proceeds, shut up and sing!!

jimbino said...

The doctrines of prescription and adverse possession require that a person aggressively defend his property if he is to keep it from being alienated. Nice is stupid sometimes.

Darcy said...

And DBQ eloquently adds to my thoughts on the "mystery". Thanks! :)

garage mahal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
garage mahal said...

@Darcy
Interesting. Not sure I agree that artists not wanting some Republicans using their songs makes them de facto socialists though. But I doubt we even agree what a socialist is ;-)

BarryD said...

1. "Let's Stay Together" is a song with no resonance at all to anyone under 50.

2. If Al Green wanted to preserve his copyright, he should have done so earlier.

3. Obama is very attractive in his singing-like-Al-Green mode. To lifelong Democratic gay men near retirement age. Who will probably vote for him anyway.

Craig said...

The Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose paved the road that made Let's Stay Together a hit for Al Green. Until then R&B was black music that didn't belong on the pop charts. Unfortunately, Eddie Cornelius, the lead singer, got hit by a pickup truck on the Gulf Freeway less than five miles from my high school during the week I graduated and the group fell apart.

Calypso Facto said...

My thoughts are that successful musicians and actors are mostly socialists. It's fascinating,

Many musicians and actors (as well as Obama and Elizabeth Warren) are on a gravy train that they they correctly feel is largely due to luck (and/or affirmative action) and therefore don't think they've EARNED their success. They then engage in the logical fallacy that EVERYONE who is successful must have arrived there in the same way ("You didn't build that business") and deserves to have some of the proceeds of that success redistributed.

edutcher said...

A bit OT (the thread has a show biz spin) and FWIW:

Anyone who wants to see the Andy Griffith movie "A Face In The Crowd" can see it on TCM tomorrow at 8PM EST.

WV "teattem" What a woman can do to please her man and her babies.

Jaske said...

Many musicians and actors (as well as Obama and Elizabeth Warren) are on a gravy train that they they correctly feel is largely due to luck (and/or affirmative action) and therefore don't think they've EARNED their success. They then engage in the logical fallacy that EVERYONE who is successful must have arrived there in the same way ("You didn't build that business") and deserves to have some of the proceeds of that success redistributed.

Scrooge McDuck.

William said...

I think if there's one place where America's long slide to socialism has been arrested it is in the area of intellectual property. The technology doesn't always favor them, but whenever possible artists enforce their rights to the maximum extent. And those rights are constantly being extended and renewed. Paul McCartney recently tried to have a sixteen year old girl arrested for whistling "Michelle, My Belle" in public. (Although it should be noted that she was a Republican and was doing it in a derogatory way.)....Sadly copywright law now offers no such protection for the artist. That's why the law needs further amending. In the future Republicans should be required to pay a special fee for a license to whistle.

Lauderdale Vet said...

If you’ve got a hit song -- you didn’t sing that. Somebody else made that happen.

...but Obama killed Osama Bin Laden

X said...

when Al Green allowed Obama to use it, he allowed anyone to use depictions of Obama using it.

jeff said...

"Not sure I agree that artists not wanting some Republicans using their songs makes them de facto socialists though."

That's cool, since that wasn't what she said. It's because they are socialists that makes them not wanting Republicans to use their songs. And what makes them de facto socialists is that generally they all about the redistribution and central management. What keeps them from being de jure is that this principle doesnt apply to their money or property.

Revenant said...

From a property-rights perspective, Green's got no claim. Green owns the song, but *Obama* owns the performance of that song.

Revenant said...

Unfortunately...Paul McCartney would never allow it.

"Taxman" was written by George Harrison, so presumably it would be his heirs who would need to grant permission.

Badger PUndit said...

Ann,

I agree, in general, with your point about how we ought to try not to politicize a beautiful, well-loved song. But there ought to be at least one exception to that general principle: it should be okay to use the song in a political context where the AUTHOR of the song, and the ARTIST best known for singing it, has used it in a political context.

That's the case here. Al Green participated in a fundraiser for Obama in Januaary, 2012, and sang the song there, obviously aware that it was being recorded and presumably would be put on YouTube. The YouTube clip, apparently shot by an audience member, has been watched 21,000+ times:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpQ28stxy58

Many versions of Obama's followup, singing a snippet of the song, are available online (Green's rights management company apparently took down only the snippet used by Romney):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6uHR90Sq6k

Al Green, the author and most famous singer of the song, decided to politicize his biggest hit -- not Romney.

Bryan C said...

"Republicans always seem to have an awfully tough time with using music in their campaigns."

That's because artists pitch a hissy fit when someone uses "their" music, which is actually not owned by them. And because copyright law is so complex and unconstitutionally twisted that no one is ever legally certain of fair-use.

Hagar said...

If Paul Krugman wrote a really stupid but quotable paragraph in his NYT column (presumably copyrighted) and Obama quoted it, and then the Romney campaign made a spot with Obama's quotation, could Krugman invoke his copyright to prevent the Romney campaign from showing up Obama?

I do not see how the situation is any different!

Perhaps if Krugman first sued Obama for plagiarizing him, but I am not aware of Al Green or his agents having any problem with Obama using their material for political purposes.

Hagar said...

Can Elizabeth Warren claim copyright on her, "All your achievements are belong to us" speech?

phx said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christopher in MA said...

Revenant, I think Sony/ATV still hold the rights to Taxman. Not that it makes much difference; I don't think the Romney campaign would use it to nail Obama.

Cedarford said...

Althouse - Obama is very attractive in his singing-like-Al-Green mode. Romney shouldn't even want to display that. It's Obama at his most likable.

edutcher - "Actually, it's Choom at his phoniest and most narcissistic."

-----------
edutcher is more on mark I think. There is a part of the population that prefers a square guy singing some good notes but being flat and out of key - a sincere song.

Versus the Coolest Man on the Planet being adulated by celebs for how he caresses a soul song.

It is Obama at his most likable to the "Kool Kidz" and diehard Obamites. It comes across as preening self indulgence to white conservatives and I dare say large numbers of independents that are hurting in this economy and have gotten a little fed up with Obama cavorting with the Beautiful People.

Triangle Man said...

Romney's performance wasn't used to embarrass him because of his singing. The singing wasn't all that bad for an untrained guy. The song was used o draw the contrast between Romney's flag-wrapped rhetoric and his outsourcing past.

What possible contrast could the Obama ad be trying to make? Obama is not "so in love" with us? It doesn't work.

Ken Green said...

If you've got a hit blog, you didn't make that. Somebody else made that happen.

Charlie Martin said...

1. "Let's Stay Together" is a beautiful, well-loved song that belongs to all of us, and we're all hurt if it is appropriated into a hostile, political context.

And "Der Reit des Walkuerie" is an exciting triumphant song and we're all hurt if it's appropriated in Apocalypse Now...

And "Happy Days Are Here Again" is a fun, light-hearted trifle and we're all hurt if it's appropriated for a particular political party...

And "O Fortuna" is an inspired reworking of a medieval poem into a masterpiece of 20th century orchestral music, and we're all hurt if it's appropriated for every damn movie teaser and TV commercial with some hope to hae a sense of urgency...

Bruce Hayden said...

I think that it is Fair Use, esp. given the political context. And, if not Fair Use, then I think that copyright enforcement by the courts might be violative of the 1st Amdt., since political speech is where the Free Speech guarantees are at their strongest.

Since this is music, there are at least two different copyrights at issue here. One is the copyright in the score itself, and the second is in Obama's rendition. Someone else singing it is not as important, except maybe if Obama created a derivative work by his performance copying someone. But, then, the cause of action would mostly be against Obama, and not Romney for that.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

And "Der Reit des Walkuerie" is an exciting triumphant song and we're all hurt if it's appropriated in Apocalypse Now...

Kill da wabbit. Sorry....already appropriated.