A few days ago, I stumbled across a story that seems to pop up with every election cycle. Apparently, counsel for the band Silversun Pickups–yeah, I haven’t heard of them, either–sent a cease-and-desist letter to Mitt Romney’s campaign, objecting to the campaign’s purported use of the band’s song, “Panic Switch.”
As noted before, this sort of thing is neither novel nor surprising. As Rolling Stone magazine, that bastion of conservative thought [sarcasm], noted in October 2008, artists of varying degrees of talent have a history of objecting to the use of their music by Republican presidential nominees: John McCain’s use of “Right Now,” “My Hero” and “Running on Empty” drew the ire of Van Halen, the Foo Fighters and Jackson Browne, for example, while The Boss even objected to The Gipper’s use of “Born in the USA” during Reagan’s 1984 reelection campaign.
So, it’s nothing new. And, honestly, it’s understandable. We only have that which we create, and artists should have control over the dissemination and use of their created material.
This time, however, the Silversun Pickups showed that perhaps they need a better education as to where their preferred candidate stands on issues like entrepreneurship and free enterprise.
Responding to the Romney campaign’s claim that use of the song, while unintentional, was nonetheless covered by the campaign’s blanket music license, the band’s publicist and attorney said the following (emphasis mine):
Silversun Pickups publicist Ken Weinstein says the group and its team don’t agree that the song’s use is covered. Attorney Tamara Milagros-Butler said she received a call from the campaign’s general counsel within about an hour of sending the letter.
“As the former governor (of) the state of Massachusetts, a graduate of Harvard Law School, and candidate for U.S. President, we’re pretty sure you’re familiar with the laws of this great country of ours,” it reads in part. “We’re writing because we, like you, think these laws are important.”
Milagros-Butler said the band is pleased with the result. She said it was important for politicians to respect musicians’ rights.
“Hard-working folks like them who have worked for years, and years and years building the value of their copyright” know the law and that they have to be vigilant about their rights, she said.
Well, according to our sitting president and the candidate apparently preferred by the Silversun Pickups, insofar as the band’s “value of their copyright” is concerned, they didn’t build that.
In fact, according to the well-documented statements of the president regarding who is indeed responsible for building successful enterprises, no musician has built the value of his or her copyrighted materials — ever. That credit, according to Barack Obama, should go to government.
After all, it was the federal government who built the roads, bridges and highway interchanges which allow bands like the Silversun Pickups and others to travel from city to city to play concerts and promote their albums. After all, it was the federal government–specifically, the FCC–that allowed for the radio signals which carry the Silversun Pickups’ crappy new singles out to the brain-dead masses on Top 40 radio stations. Without that government-sanctioned infrastructure, and without the regulation, the band would be unable to build the value of their copyrights by ensuring that their new singles are heard far and wide.
Further, if it wasn’t for music teachers in the public school system, they might never have learned an instrument at all to play on those albums and at those concerts. (Some may argue that the Silversun Pickups never learned enough.) Certainly, but for the first-grade teacher instructing those band-mates how to best irritate their parents with the recorder, such hits as “Panic Switch” would have never happened at all.
No, they didn’t build the value of their copyright. Government did. Sure, they might have worked hard for years and years and years, but it was only because of those roads and bridges, and because they were taught to massacre “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” by their public school teachers, that they were allowed to be successful.
The hypocrisy and misinformation is so rampant on the left and among Barack Obama’s supporters that we should not be surprised when stories like this find their way into our newspapers and onto our home pages. Still, outside of that creative, arty bubble, it seems as though ordinary Americans are starting to see through it. And, in the context of what happens this November, that seems more important to me.
Jeff Schreiber, the founder and managing editor of America’s Right, is a family law attorney in the outskirts of Charleston, South Carolina. He is the owner of Lowcountry Divorce & Family Law, LLC, a solo law practice established in July 2012