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SXSW Music 2013

Music on the Campaign Trail

Politicians love using popular songs at rallies and in campaign ads. But every election season brings new stories about musicians who don't love the politicians who are using their work, and issues where political campaigns may even be violating copyright law.

We'll walk through the copyright and other legal issues that come up when politicians use music in campaign ads and at public events. And we'll talk about what happens when ethics and the law collide.

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  1. Do campaigns have the legal right to play music at rallies without getting permission from the artists?
  2. What about campaign ads--can political campaigns use songs in those without first getting permission?
  3. Copyright law aside, do musicians have the right to combat any perceived endorsement of politicians and their views?
  4. If you're a musician who doesn't want your music used by a political campaign, what should you do?
  5. Does political speech trump copyright?



John Bergmayer, Senior Staff Attorney, Public Knowledge

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