Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and liberal political activist Jackson Browne filed a lawsuit on August 14 against Sen. John McCain and the Republican National Committee in the United States District Court in Los Angeles, CA. The lawsuit stems from a recent television commercial for McCain’s presidential bid that incorporates the song “Running On Empty,” written by and long associated with Browne.
The suit alleges that McCain and the Republican Party failed to obtain a license for the use of Browne’s song in the television commercial in which Democratic Candidate Barack Obama is mocked for suggesting that the country conserve gas through proper tire inflation.
In addition to copyright infringement, the suit alleges that by using a song famously associated with Browne, McCain and the Republican Party violated the United States Lanham Act by falsely suggesting that Browne is associated with and endorses McCain’s candidacy. It also alleges that the use of Browne’s voice in the commercial violates his right of publicity under California law. The suit seeks a permanent injunction prohibiting the use of “Running On Empty” and any other Jackson Browne composition, as well as damages.
“We are confident that Jackson Browne will prevail in this lawsuit, “ said Browne’s attorney, Lawrence Y. Iser, in a statement. ”Not only have Sen. McCain and his agents plainly infringed Mr. Browne’s copyright in ‘Running On Empty,’ but the Federal Courts have long held that the unauthorized use of a famous singer’s voice in a commercial constitutes a false endorsement and a violation of the singer’s right of publicity.”
Iser continued in the statement, “In light of Jackson Browne’s lifelong commitment to Democratic ideals and political candidates, the misappropriation of Jackson Browne’s endorsement is entirely reprehensible, and I have no doubt that a jury will agree.”
Music has played a large role in the current presidential campaigns since the first votes started rolling in during the primaries. Both major political parties have received support from a variety of recording artists via verbal endorsements, benefit concerts and campaign songs.
Jackson Browne is gearing up to launch his fall tour on September 15 in Washington, DC.