Above the Law

Another campaign season, another long slog of intellectual property infringement by candidates.

It’s amazing to me that people who are running for public office steal other people’s property and then flaunt that theft in public. Imagine if a campaign made a habit of stealing a car every time the candidate needed to go somewhere. Even in today’s world of weird politics, I have to think that people would be upset by that. And yet they steal music, fame, and trademarks and no one bats an eye.

Theft of music rights is so commonplace that ASCAP has a set of guidelines covering the use of music in campaigns. It’s not just a question of getting a standard license. If a campaign makes substantial use of a particular song, makes it the theme song for example, then there are other rights involved, including the right of publicity, and the potential for a claim for false endorsement.

Most recently, the Committee to Restore America’s Greatness put up a billboard showing the candidate it supports dressed as Superman®. Unless they had a license to use the famous mark[1] pictured above, which is owned by DC Comics E.C. Publications, Inc. and Warner Communications LLC, this is an incredibly serious infringement of intellectual property rights.

Disregard for property rights is not traditionally a popular plank in a candidate’s platform, but it is a very common one.

[1] The owner of the trademark has not responded to my inquiry.



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