This tweet by NBC campaign reporter Garrett Haake started today’s scandal:
I dig the alternative playlist this morning in NC, but “Panic Switch” by Silversun Pickups may not be the message Romney camp wants to send
— Garrett Haake (@GarrettNBCNews) August 12, 2012
Somehow the attorney for the band got wind of that and decided to join the somewhat long line of performers who have objected to the use of their songs by Republican campaigns. AP reports:
The Silversun Pickups want Republican Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign to immediately stop the use of the rock group’s song ‘‘Panic Switch.’’ And the Romney campaign has no problem with that.
The Los Angeles-based band’s attorney sent a cease and desist letter to Romney on Wednesday. A news release says neither the band nor its representatives were contacted for permission to use the 2009 alternative rock hit and the group ‘‘has no intention of endorsing the Romney campaign.’’
‘‘We don’t like people going behind our backs, using our music without asking, and we don’t like the Romney campaign,’’ Silversun Pickups lead singer Brian Aubert said in the statement. ‘‘We’re nice, approachable people. We won’t bite. Unless you’re Mitt Romney! We were very close to just letting this go because the irony was too good. While he is inadvertently playing a song that describes his whole campaign, we doubt that ‘Panic Switch’ really sends the message he intends.’’
Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in an email that the song was inadvertently played during the setup for one event before Romney arrived. The band learned about it in a tweet from Romney’s North Carolina stopover.
‘‘As anyone who attends Gov. Romney’s events knows, this is not a song we would have played intentionally,’’ she wrote. ‘‘That said, it was covered under the campaign’s regular blanket license, but we will not play it again.’’
TMZ has a full copy of the cease and desist letter online [PDF].
Somehow bands seem to forget that while those wishing to play their music have to get the permission of the copyright holder (usually the band), the copyright holders have also designated performing rights organizations like BMI and ASACP as designated agents to license their material. The Romney campaign has licensing agreements with BMI and ASCAP, therefor they do not need to get the permission of the artist. You don’t have to take my word on that you can, the promotional material for one of the blanket licenses (the Jukebox license [PDF]) covers the legalities for you.
* How can I possibly obtain permission from the copyright owners of every song on my jukebox?
As a practical matter, it would be very difficult to do. The Jukebox License Office (JLO) understands the enormous burden and impracticality of such a task for you as a businessperson. The JLO makes it convenient and economical for you to obtain the permission you need for your jukebox by serving as a “clearinghouse” that provides authorization to perform virtually every copyrighted song in the United States and much of the world.
* What is the JLO?
The JLO is a joint venture of the United States performing rights organizations, ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, combined, represent essentially every copyrighted song in the United States and much of the world. The JLO offers a license known as the Jukebox License Agreement that provides total access to all songs in the ASCAP, BMI and SESAC repertories. The Jukebox License Agreement is a single, economical, annual license that provides the authorization required to publicly perform copyrighted songs on your jukebox. Once you are licensed with the JLO, you will receive a certificate that must be displayed in the title strip holder of each jukebox you operate
* I already have licenses with ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. Why do I need to pay the JLO too?
You don’t. You have the choice of obtaining jukebox licenses from ASCAP, BMI and SESAC directly or you may contact each copyright owner individually. The Jukebox License Agreement, however, generally costs less, is more convenient and is less of an administrative burden than the other options.
There are other similar licenses, including ones for local governments. If the Romney campaign has the blanket performance license they claim to have then they are fully within their rights to play “Panic Switch.” Whether or not playing that song is a good idea is another matter entirely, but in this case the Silversun Pickups are the ones who apparently don’t understand the legal agreements they’ve made with the rights publishing organizations.
This reeks of a stunt for free publicity on the part of the band…
Here’s the Silversun Pickups “Panic Switch” so you can see what all the fuss is about…