Rush Limbaugh has done it again. He took the airwaves on Feb. 29 and mouthed off derogatory statements towards woman’s rights activist and Georgetown Law student, Sandra Fluke, regarding her speech at an unofficial congressional hearing. Fluke’s speech was over free mandated contraceptives for religious institutions, leading to Limbaugh’s statements – which included calling her a “slut,” “prostitute,” and saying that she has so much sex that she can’t even afford her own birth control. This created a huge public outrage.
The outcry cause many advertisers to pull out of Limbaugh’s show, such as ProFlowers, Legal Zoom, and AOL. Many stations have also dropped his syndicated broadcast and apologized to their listeners for his mindless comments. The most interesting responses to this controversy, however, involves musicians such as Rush (the band), Peter Gabriel, Rage Against the Machine, and The Fabulous Thunderbirds.
Since the controversy began, these artists have demanded that Limbaugh stop using their music during his broadcasts. Lawyers and representatives for these artists have sent letters to Limbaugh threatening some sort of legal action, even though Limbaugh has rights to this music since it is part of a “public performance catalog.”
The Canadian rock band Rush sent Limbaugh a cease and desist letter though their attorney, Bob Farmer. In the letter, the band states that they do not want their music associated with a political broadcast, even though the music is legally available for Limbaugh’s use.
“The use of Rush’s music in this way is an infringement of Rush’s copyrights and trademarks. The public performance of Rush’s music is not licensed for political purposes and any such use is in breach of public performance licenses and constitutes copyright infringement. There are civil and criminal remedies for copyright infringement, including statutory damages and fines.”
The letter goes on to state that the use of the music violates Section 51 of the New York Civil Rights Law, even though The Rush Limbaugh Show is broadcast in Florida.
Read the entire letter here
Rush’s song “The Spirit of the Radio” was playing in the background during Limbaugh’s verbal onslaught on Fluke. This was also the first time the band knew about the broadcasting of their music as bumpers, which is perfectly legal, despite the band’s disapproval.
“’Peter was appalled to learn that his music was linked to Rush Limbaugh’s extraordinary attack on Sandra Flute. It is obvious from anyone that knows Peter’s work that he would never approve such a use. He has asked his representatives to make sure his music is withdrawn and especially from these unfair aggressive and ignorant comments. ‘” [Source]
Rage Against the Machine, notably Tom Morello, called Limbaugh a “Jackass” and tweeted “stop using our music on your racist, misogynist, right wing clown show” after playing “Sleep Now in the Fire” as a bumper for his March 9 show. This has to be the best demonstration of his ignorance with music, considering this tune is one of Rage’s most liberal songs.
The latest band to request the removal of their music is blues band The Fabulous Thunderbirds. Kim Wilson sent letters to Limbaugh, Premier Networks, and Clear Channel Communications asking him to stop playing their song “Tuff Enuff,” which he has used for years as a bumper with the band’s consent. In these letters, Wilson proceeds to call him a “clown” (similar to Morello’s comments) and a “Promoter of Ignorance.”
It is still unsure if Limbaugh will respect their requests. More than likely, their music will be pulled, even though no legal action can technically be pursued, due to the “public performance catalog” clause.
Regardless of the law, it would only be fair if political figures or organization gain permission before using an artist’s music. This issue has been seen in the past in many political campaigns. This includes Michelle Bachmann’s use of Tom Petty’s “American Girl” and Newt Gingrich’s use of “Eye of the Tiger.” These songs were played without permission, causing a possible affiliation that these musicians did not want anything to do with.
Technically, the use of these songs without permission for political reasons could be seen as a possible defamation case, since it could ruin a bands image when associated with a figure like Limbaugh. Whenever I hear “The Spirit of the Radio” now, I can’t help but to think of Limbaugh’s comments, which is possible grounds for a legal consequence, regardless of any “public performance law.”
How do you feel about artist’s drama with Rush Limbaugh? Do you feel legal action should be pursued if their demands are not met?