Here's some more on this subject, as it seems to be quite the hot topic in my social media circles. The Future Of Music Coalition has released a factsheet on music licensing and political campaigns that explains a songwriter's rights much clearer than I was able to in my previous post. One thing I was unsure about was whether a politician's campaign could have a compulsory license that travels with them … the factsheet clarifies:
Anytime a campaign plays a song at a rally, they must ensure that they have a public performance license covering the composition’s use. Most major public venues such as convention centers and arenas typically purchase blanket licenses from performance rights organizations or PROS (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC) allowing campaigns to “publicly perform” any song in their repertoire, which includes the vast majority of compositions. However, these licenses may not cover all uses, so most national campaigns also purchase their own blanket licenses covering all campaign events; an additional benefit is that if they have a whistlestop event on the campaign trail at a factory or in a park and they throw a playlist on the P.A., they’d still be covered.
An ASCAP document specifically concerning music use in political events is linked, which is quite useful. That document also details other avenues that a songwriter could pursue to seek retribution, including a claim of 'false endorsement.' I'd like to know if that has been successfully used in a lawsuit against a political campaign under circumstances similar to the recent R.E.M. and Survivor cases. I bet it hasn't. A judge would have a certain regard for the intelligence of the public … it would be seen as pretty obvious, from a legal standpoint, that playing an R.E.M. song as walk-on music doesn't equate endorsement of a candidate.