JUST BECAUSE A MUSIC PERFORMER SAYS “I DIDN’T GIVE THEM PERMISSION TO USE THAT RECORDING” DOESN’T MEAN THAT THE USE WAS UNAUTHORIZED
Every now and then there will be an item in the news about this or that popular music performer complaining about a recording that he or she made being used at some public event promoting someone or something (usually a political candidate or cause) with which the performer doesn’t want to be associated. Usually the performer says something about the candidate or cause using the recording without the performer’s permission. It always sounds very simple: that recording belongs to the performer and no one should be able to use it without his or her permission, right?
What the performer undoubtedly knows, but never mentions, is that it’s not that simple. I can’t quantify it, but in probably the vast majority of such events, the performer does not have the right to control the use of “their” recording. That right is probably owned by someone else: the record company, the publisher of the music, or another third party who acquired it from the record company or publisher. The performer may be entitled to collect royalties from the public use of the recording, but that doesn’t mean that the performer has any say in who uses the recording.
There are likely some occasions where organizations staging public events use popular recordings without obtaining permission, but I doubt that it happens very often at an event as big as a national political convention or a major rally for a national political candidate. I’ll bet that the organizers of those events have almost always obtained permission from whoever owns the right to public use of the recording. The performer isn’t involved, because the performer doesn’t own that right.
Frankly, when performers complain about “their” recording being played without their permission, I suspect they are being disingenuous. The performers want to make sure everyone knows that they disagree with the candidate or cause. If they make it sound like the candidate or cause did something wrong, that gets more attention, and furthers their agenda because it discredits the candidate or cause. So the performers announce that they didn’t give permission for the use of the recording, but don’t mention the fact that such permission was not theirs to give.
The contents of this blog, this web site, and any writings by me that are linked here, are all my personal commentary. None of it is intended to be legal advice for your situation.