A spokeswoman for BMG Rights Management defended their takedown notice of a Mitt Romney ad featuring President Obama singing a few bars from Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.”
The BMG spokeswoman said, “Our duty is to protect the rights of our songwriters and other clients without regard to political party or cause. In this case, the use of the music in question was not approved by the rights holder. As a result, normal takedown procedure was followed.”
The Romney campaign says that its use of Obama’s singing is “fair use,” and said that it planned to defend its rights. I can file for a counter notice with YouTube to restore the ad, after which the rights holders have 10 days to give YouTube notice that they have filed action in court seeking an order to stop the showing. If no such order is filed, the video can be restored. Of course, 10 days are like eons in a presidential campaign.
Green wrote the song with Al Jackson Jr. and Willie Mitchell.
Update: Timothy B. Lee of Ars Technica sees this as a “bogus” takedown request.
He writes, “The Romney ad seems like as clear-cut a case of fair use as can be imagined. Obama’s singing is a core part of the ad’s message, and copyright law explicitly mentions commentary and criticism as justifications for fair use. And it’s hard to imagine the ad harming the market for “Let’s Stay Together.”
“Yet the “notice and takedown” process established by the DMCA and apparently utilized by BMG Rights Management in this case doesn’t give the Romney campaign much recourse. It can file a counter notice stating that it believes its clip to be fair use, but YouTube is required to wait a minimum of 10 days before putting the video back up. In a campaign where the news cycle is measured in hours, 10 days is an eternity.”