While it may be true, as Billy Joel once said, that only the good die young, campaign videos that improperly use a copyrighted song die quick.
Or so Patty Murray’s U.S. Senate campaign learned Friday. Lawyers told the campaign to pull a video that was using Joel’s song to jab Dino Rossi for comments he made about attracting undecided voters.
The campaign was using the song without legal permission.
“We have not received any complaints,” campaign spokeswoman Alex Glass said. “We did it out of an abundance of caution.”
The campaign began circulating the one-minute video Thursday, and posted it on YouTube. It took a swipe at Rossi for comments attributed to him in a recent National Journal article, in which he described his chances of winning over uncommitted voters.
“In the old adage, there are saints and sinners and those who can be saved. The saints are with us, the sinners are not. And the ones that can be saved are the ones we will be talking to,” Rossi was quoted as saying.
That prompted Democrats in Washington state to ask who Rossi was calling a sinner. The Murray campaign produced a quick video showing some big-business GOP supporters and political consultant Karl Rove, questioning their sainthood, and Murray with veterans, families and children, asking if they were sinners.
In the background, they played portions of “Only the Good Die Young,” including the lyrics: “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints/ The sinners are much more fun.”
“It did seem to be the perfect song,” Glass said.
Political campaigns regularly run into trouble for taking music without permission. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign was sued by Jackson Browne when it used “Running on Empty” and also had complaints for using songs by John Mellencamp, ABBA and Frankie Valli. Two years ago, Washington state Democrats had to apologize for using the theme song from “The Sopranos” in a commercial knocking Rossi, who at the time was running for governor.
Glass said the campaign talked with lawyers after The Spokesman-Review called to check if they had received permission to use the song. They hadn’t, and lawyers said to pull the video.