Infringement Case Against McCain Advances


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John McCain says he was a puppet for the Republican National Committee and therefore should not be held accountable for a presidential campaign commercial that used the popular song “Running on Empty" by Jackson Browne without permission.

But the Los Angeles federal judge presiding over the copyright- infringement case was not buying it. The judge refused late Friday to remove the Arizona senator from the lawsuit in which he and the Republican National Committee are accused of violating the rights to Browne's 1977 hit.

Here's what McCain told the judge (.pdf) handling the case:
I was not involved at all in any way in the writing, creation, production, distribution or dissemination of the video, nor do I have any knowledge whatsoever of how this video was written, created, produced or disseminated or who was involved in any aspect of the writing, creation, production, distribution or dissemination of the video. I was completely unaware that this video even existed until I was informed of it after this lawsuit was filed.

Despite McCain's claims of being a hapless dupe for his party, U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner said (.pdf) the RNC and McCain were so intertwined — what the judge called an “agency relationship" — that McCain stays in the case. The judge wrote that, even if McCain's statement were true, “once an agency relationship is established, the principal is liable for the acts of her agent, even if the principal does not expressly authorize or instruct her agent to take any action."

The judge also did not agree with the Republicans and McCain that Browne's lawsuit was bogus. Among other things, the judge kept the lawsuit alive to give the defendants a chance to demonstrate how using about 20 seconds of the song in the commercial was a fair use.

The August commercial was broadcast on YouTube and cable television. It played Browne's music in a McCain commercial criticizing Barack Obama's energy policy. The song was purchased on iTunes.

Browne claims that the commercial falsely suggested he endorsed McCain and the Republican Party. “Nothing could be further from the truth," Browne said. The judge scheduled an April 20 hearing to determine how to proceed with Browne's lawsuit. The ad initially ran in Ohio, but the Ohio Republican Party was removed from the case.

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