Political campaigns routinely use popular music to help shape voters’ perceptions about their candidate. And while the practice may hit a sour ideological note with some artists, there’s not much they can—or should—do to turn off the music, since both copyright laws and free-speech doctrine support it, Christopher Sprigman and Siva Vaidhyanathan write in the Washington Post.
“There is an inherent tension between copyright law—which tells us what we cannot say, sing or perform—and the First Amendment, which protects against state censorship,” they write after referencing complaints from the likes of Heart, the Foo Fighters, and John Mellencamp directed at John McCain’s campaign. “In this case, the First Amendment must win. Rich and varied political speech—no matter how distasteful to recording artists or their fans—must prevail and stay free.”