Byrne Gets YouTube Apology

Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is the latest to be slapped with a lawsuit for using an artist’s song in a political campaign ad without permission.

This time, the aggrieved musician was David Byrne. And though terms of the settlement weren’t released, at least one has become public: a YouTube video has surfaced of Crist issuing an apology to the former Talking Head.

Byrne had sued Crist for $1 million for using the song “Road To Nowhere” in a YouTube video attacking Marco Rubio, an opponent in the ex-gov’s U.S. Senate race. Crist and the ad agency have swapped blame for the unauthorized use of the song.

But in the end, everyone seems pleased with the outcome. Crist said Byrne “couldn’t have been a better guy” when they met in early April to mediate the case. And Byrne left the meeting feeling “very manly” about having stood up for artists’ rights in such cases.

“It turns out I am one of the few artists who has the bucks and (guts) to challenge such usage. I’m feeling very manly after my trip to Tampa!” Byrne’s statement said. “Other artists may actually have the anger but not want to take the time and risk the legal bills. I am lucky I can do that.

“Anyway, my hope is that by standing up to this practice maybe it can be made to be a less common option, or better yet an option that is never taken in the future,” Byrne said.

Apparently, Byrne was taken by surprise to learn just how common a practice it’s become for politicians to lift songs without authorization for campaign ads or stump music. Former presidential candidate Bob Dole got in trouble a couple of decades ago for using “Soul Man” on his campaign.

And, more recently, famously left-leaning Don Henley and Jackson Browne went to court over the unauthorized use of their music by Republicans.

But Byrne seems to have taken a somewhat different tack from the usual cease-and-desist plus cash settlement, because it’s hard to fathom Crist deciding to record an apology and post it on his own.

“I pledge that, should there be any future election campaigns for me, I will respect and uphold the rights of artists and obtain permission or a license for the use of any copyrighted work” Crist said on the video, posted April 11.

Byrne’s attorney in the suit was Lawrence Iser, who represented Browne when the singer-songwriter sued U.S. Sen. John McCain and the Ohio GOP for using “Running On Empty” without permission in McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.

“This settlement again confirms that the U.S. copyright and trademark laws apply to politicians and their advertising agencies, just like everyone else,” Iser said.