The Ownership Society?

This is the full text of an email sent to Bob Lefsetz from Larry Hoppen, former member of Orleans.  He wrote the great mid-70’s ode to marital fidelity, “Still the One”.  The song has been appropriated by many political candidates since then.  Hoppen takes issue with how the song’s been used and abused, typically without permission from the artist.  Even lawsuits won’t stop this artistic theft, he says, speaking from experience.

More importantly, he slams one party’s cavalier behavior when it comes to compensation.  In short, one party talks alot about an “ownership society” but seems unwilling to abide by the rules of the game.  I think this is blatant hypocrisy, and speaks greatly to the character issue.  Hoppen points out that the other party asks permission, and pays for use of music.

Here’s the letter, draw your own conclusions:

Bob, the recent unauthorized McCain Campaign use of Heart’s “Barracuda” is the latest in a decades-long tradition of (mostly Republican) misappropiation of popular Artists’ work.  I applaud the public response Heart had to this fresh offense. I REALLY applaud Jackson Browne for filing suit against the unauthorized use of “For Everyman” recently.

As lead singer and a royalty artist on the 1976 hit “Still The One”, I have hands-on experience with the anger, embarrassment and false image this outrageous practice causes. When George Bush and the RNC were caught using STO as W’s new re-election “Theme Song” by its co-author John Hall (now a Congressman, D-NY, 19 😉 and myself, the usual “cease and desist” legal letter went out. The RNC claimed, as McCain did with Barracuda only days ago, that  they had paid “all the required licenses” because they “respect artists’ work”.

The truth is, they only get a “Blanket License” from one of the performance rights societies, which covers mainly ‘background’ use – and then they use these songs as featured thematic material in major venues – like national campaigns that are televised and/or potentially reach hundreds of thousands, indeed millions, on a given Campaign tour.

The first time I remember this happening was Reagan using Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” ( in 1984, I believe). He was asked to stop … and there are many other examples.

In fact, McCain ALSO started using Still The One recently, and was VERY quickly sent the standard cease and desist letter. Another example of his similarity to Bush, I guess.

For the record, Sen. Ted Kennedy had PERMISSION from the author and artists to use Still The One both in 2000 and 2008. I presume Fleetwood Mac authorized Pres. Clinton to use “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow”, or it wouldn’t still be a Clinton ‘signature song’!  Sure seems like only one Party ever asks.

Also for the record, only months after the RNC pledged to stop using STO with Bush’s re-election in 2004, I saw a film of a Tom Delay rally using the same recording of ours.

I bring all this to your attention because I think it’s timely and important to say:  When people who think nothing of doing this say that they are being respectful of artists’ work, when they say they are respectful of Copyright Law, when they say they are in favor of an “Ownership Society”, they are LIARS.

Let’s call the unauthorized use of massively popular hit records what it is: grand theft, at the very least.  One unanswered uestion is: WHO is accountable for this behavior? And let’s point the finger at who’s doing this most of the time: Republican candidates.