Is John McCain camp still playing Heart’s “Barracuda” against copyright holders’ wishes

News: As reported earlier, CNN reported that Universal Music Publishing and Sony BMG sent the McCain camp a letter asking it to stop playing Heart’s “Barracuda” on the campaign trail after the song was used at the Republican National Convention. (Sarah Palin’s nickname is “barracuda.”) Universal Music Publishing presumably owns the copyright to the musical work, while Sony BMG owns the copyright to the sound recording. The American Spectator reports that the McCain camp played the song “Barracuda” at another stop in Ohio just yesterday.

Analysis: It’s not clear what’s going on based on the limited amount of information given. It’s unlikely that the McCain camp has a blanket license to use the copyrighted song for the rest of the campaign season. So once the copyright holders Universal and Sony BMG sent the letter demanding that the McCain camp stop playing it, that would seem to make subsequent uses by the McCain camp unauthorized and infringement. Techdirt blog suggests that these uses may have been licensed by the venues (such as through an ASCAP license).   CNN is now reporting that the McCain camp said it had obtained a license for the RNC Convention.  There’s been no statement by anyone to verify a license for subsequent uses. Another interesting wrinkle is that the copyright holders appear to have put the McCain camp on notice not to play their copyrighted song. The scenario would present an excellent exam question for my copyright class.

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