‘Carmen Sandiego’ Singer-Songwriter Issues Cease and Desist Demand to Rand Paul Campaign

Rand Paul
Matt Baron/BEI/Shutterstock

Attorneys for Sean Altman are threatening to file a lawsuit against the campaign of Rand Paul over the use of Altman’s “Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?” in a campaign ad.

Altman’s attorney, Larry Iser of Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert, sent a letter to Paul’s campaign manager, Chip Englander, on Jan. 19, asking the campaign to remove the ad from the campaign’s YouTube and Facebook pages as well as its Twitter account. It also asks the campaign to cease and desist from ever airing the ad again, and to contact Iser to talk about compensating Altman and his Big Sean Music for the use of the work and violations of his right of publicity.

Iser wrote that the campaign had responded to a previous letter in late December by promising to remove the ad, but he said that it still can be accessed.

In the letter, Iser wrote that should the Paul campaign not comply, they would “not hesitate” to file a lawsuit against the campaign and Paul personally. He noted that he also represented Jackson Browne when he filed suit against John McCain’s campaign and the Ohio Republican Party over the unauthorized use of “Running on Empty” in a campaign ad. That led to a settlement, including an undisclosed monetary payment, a public apology and a pledge by the Republican National Committee to license future works. Iser also represented David Byrne in his lawsuit against the campaign of then-Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida over the unauthorized use of his music, which also led to a settlement and apology.

“It is appropriate and consistent with the Constitution and our laws that, going forward, the campaign obtain licenses and permissions for the use of all third party copyrighted materials in the campaign, and that Senator Paul and the campaign recognize their immediate obligation to properly compensate Mr. Altman for the unauthorized use of his works,” Iser wrote.

A representative for Paul’s campaign contends that they already had responded to Altman’s demand.


“The Campaign responded, out of courtesy, to Mr. Altman’s request several weeks ago by removing the video from its YouTube account, and the video does not appear on any of the Campaign’s social media pages,” said Doug Stafford, the campaign’s chief strategist. “At this point, it appears that the only reason this lives on is so that Mr. Altman can pursue a political agenda or so his trial lawyers can frivolously chase a windfall.”

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  1. vlookup says:

    Finally someone who gets it. Most of the Media panders to the midset of 6th graders, just gossiping and not really digging into the substance of issues that really matter and define a governing style. As far as I”m concerned, we’re not electing a Priest in Chief or an Entertainer in Chief. We need an advocate of the law, our Constitution, wise and weighted in economic and foreign affairs. Too many American’s just vote based on social issues, not understanding that that is a better criteria for electing Congress/Senate members and not President.

  2. It’s well established that using music for a parody (in this case, mocking Marco Rubio) is fair use, and does not need permission.

    Here’s some more fair use of a parody:

    “Iser won’t back down. No, he won’t back down. He’s wrong as hell, and his shoes do smell, but he won’t back down. Hey. He’ll take the sleazy way out. But he won’t back down. No fair use around. He’s a total clown. Won’t back down.”

    • Chelsea L says:

      You’re wrong, Cody. If it were parody the ad would be poking fun at Mr. Altman’s song itself. Weird Al covers are parody, for instance. Using a protected work to comment on or mock values, people, events, etc at large is considered SATIRE, and is significantly harder to defend legally. (You’re incredibly clever little take on the Tom Petty ditty would fall under that umbrella too, I might add). Senator Paul’s ad hardly even qualifies as satire. Rather, it uses Altman’s intellectual property (and voice) to further the Paul campaign’s goals. No way this is protected.

    • thewb says:

      It’s not fair use if they’re literally using the original recording.

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