Are Politicians Exempt From Copyright Laws?

It’s 2016 and the political campaigns are in full gear with campaign advertisements and rallies. Such advertisements and rallies are often accompanied by excerpts of popular songs of various artists to help promote a candidate’s theme and message. Judging from the widespread use of such songs without consent or license, for instance the unauthorized use of Adele’s song “Hello” by Governor Chris Christie, Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee, one would tend to think that politicians were exempt from the Copyright Laws.

Exempting Themselves is Not The Same As Legal Approval
Although politicians have exempted themselves from some laws, they are not exempt from compliance with Copyright Laws. Like anyone else, politicians need to obtain a license or consent to use copyrighted songs and their failure to do so can result in a lawsuit for substantial damages and attorneys’ fees.

Politicians Are Subject to Legal Claims
Such was the case in Florida in a lawsuit filed by the law firm of Livingston Law, P.A. of Naples, Florida on behalf of David Byrne and his music company against the then-sitting Governor Charlie Crist and his campaign for the unauthorized use of the song “Road To Nowhere” by David Byrne of the Talking Heads. Governor Crist used the song on his campaign website and on a YouTube commercial attacking the campaign of his then primary opponent, Marco Rubio for one of Florida’s United States senatorial seats. Although Governor Crist and his campaign claimed he didn’t know the use of the song was not licensed and blamed the management and marketing company that put together the commercial (both of which were also added as Defendants in the lawsuit), Governor Crist was still individually liable for copyright infringement as innocence or lack of knowledge is not a defense to copyright infringement, as the Copyright Law provides for strict liability. Thus, Governor Crist, his campaign, management company and marketing company wisely chose to settle the case at mediation to avoid a trial. Governor Crist also issued a formal apology to David Byrne for the unauthorized use of “Road To Nowhere.”

Contact Us With Your Concerns
If anyone has any questions or concerns about the unauthorized use of copyrighted music by a political candidate or of any copyright infringement matter, please contact the attorneys at Livingston Law, P.A. by calling 1-800-548-4332, sending an email to or visiting our website