Saturday, November 21, 2015

Huckabee being sued over song

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is being sued over his campaign's unauthorized playing of "Eye of the Tiger".

I detest Huckabee's fundamentalist, intolerant stance on many issues. Even so, I kind of feel for the guy.

"When the person made a complaint, there was an offer made to pay him and issue an apology," said the presidential candidate, who continues to struggle in the polls and was demoted to the undercard debate in Milwaukee. "We don’t want to run somebody’s music who hates my guts. I get that."
I'll take him at his word on this. It does kind of suck that an apology and restitution wasn't enough. (Caveat: we haven't heard from the plaintiff, one of the song's writers. Maybe the campaign didn't handle the negotiations well and honked him off somehow.)

That said, political campaigns, particularly Republican ones, have a habit of playing songs first and seeking forgiveness later. Reagan's campaign infamously used "Born in the U.S.A." without asking Springsteen (and apparently without understanding the lyrics, which are scathing toward the simpleminded patriotism he espoused); Trump used Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World" and R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World As We Know It" without asking. Huckabee is neither Reagan nor Trump (though he exhibits some of the least savory aspects of both), but I suspect he's reaping the music world's resentment of the trend.

Musicians have good reason to hit back at politicians' unauthorized use of their music. First, copyright enforcement has to be vigorous or the holder risks losing the copyright. Second, musicians risk being linked to the politicians in people's minds. Artists of any stripe live and die by their reputations: they have to guard those reputations as carefully as any brand.

Maybe if Huckabee weren't so polarizing a figure, or the context of the song's unauthorized use hadn't been a rally for Kim Davis, one of the most polarizing figures in recent memory, he might have been able to settle the matter quietly. We don't know. The bottom line, though, is that a lawsuit was always possible. He and his campaign knew that. So when I say "I kind of feel for the guy", the emphasis is on "kind of".

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