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If reagan played disco: Rocking out and selling out with the talking heads of political campaigns and their unauthorized use of music

Music and Law

ISBN: 978-1-78350-036-9, eISBN: 978-1-78350-037-6

ISSN: 1521-6136

Publication date: 21 December 2013

Abstract

Purpose – This chapter explores the use of music and celebrity endorsements in political campaigns of the United States. It focuses on two aspects: (1) the legality of a political campaign’s use of music at rallies and in advertisements without authorization from the owner of the musical work and (2) a review of the literature on the potential effect of the use of music in political campaigns on voter behavior.

Design/methodology/approach – A brief history of the use of music in political campaigns precedes an examination of the expansion of copyright law protection for music and the legal claims musicians may raise against the unauthorized use of music by political campaigns. The chapter then reviews the potential effect of political campaigns’ use of music and celebrity endorsements on voter behavior.

Findings – A musician’s primary legal protection falls under copyright law, but the courts disagree on whether the unauthorized use of music at political rallies and in political campaign advertisements results in copyright infringement. Social research suggests music and celebrity endorsements affect voter behavior with a likely greater effect on first-time voters.

Originality/value of chapter – This chapter introduces the complicated application of copyright law to the unauthorized use of musical works by political campaigns. Additionally, it notes the limited research on the effect of music and celebrity endorsements on voter behavior even as political campaigns increasingly target niche demographics with specific music selections to motivate voters to vote.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Acknowledgments

The author thanks Stacey Bergeson and Amanda Andersen for their constant curiosity and rock n’ roll knowledge. All errors are the author’s own.

Citation

Schwender, D.D. (2013), "If reagan played disco: Rocking out and selling out with the talking heads of political campaigns and their unauthorized use of music", Music and Law (Sociology of Crime, Law and Deviance, Vol. 18), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 3-36. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1521-6136(2013)0000018004

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013 Emerald Group Publishing Limited