Politicians Don’t Always Need Musician Approval to Use Songs in Ads, but They Need to Buy the License

On October 4, 2022, Verify published an article by Casey Decker on whether or not political candidates need permission from musicians to use their songs in campaign ads. The article quotes Daniel Schacht, Music & Entertainment Chair and IP Co-chair.

Excerpted from the article:

“In the United States, music is protected by copyright, which means anyone who wishes to use a song must obtain a license. The type of license varies depending on how the song is being used.

To add music to your political ad – or any other video – you must obtain what’s called a “sync license.”

“You’re synchronizing the audio, the composition, with the video. So that’s a sync license,” said music attorney Daniel Schacht. “And typically, artists have the right to approve… a sync license.”

“There’s the copyright to the recording itself. Whoever performed the recording, or the record label, will own that specific recording,” said Schacht. “And then whoever wrote the music, there’s… composition copyright. So the songwriters will typically own that. And that’s handled by a publishing company.”

“What comes up in these cases, too – which is often a harder claim for somebody to make – will be a false endorsement,” said Schacht. “Maybe as an artist, you don’t control your rights anymore, and you don’t like being associated with that [candidate]. If you can show that people in the public think that you’re endorsing the candidate, then you could have a claim.”

Read the full article, Politicians don’t always need musician approval to use songs in ads, but they need to buy the license.