Jackson Browne has settled a lawsuit and received an apology from Sen. John McCain and the Republican Party over use of his song “Running on Empty” during last year’s presidential campaign.

The settlement announced Tuesday includes a pledge by the GOP not to use any musicians’ work without proper permission in future campaigns, a statement that Browne said he hoped would benefit other artists.

Browne sued McCain and the Republican National Committee and the Ohio Republican Party last year over use of “Running on Empty” in a Web ad mocking Democrat Barack Obama’s proposed energy policies.

McCain’s loss in November didn’t end the lawsuit, which had been slated for trial early next year. Formal settlement papers have yet to be filed with the court.

“This settlement is really a great affirmation of what I believed my rights to be, and all writers’ rights to be,” Browne said in an interview with The Associated Press. “One would hope that a presidential candidate would not only know the law but respect it. It was a matter of bringing that issue to bear.”

Financial details of the settlement were not announced.

McCain didn’t know about the ad, which was created by the Ohio Republican Party and removed after Browne complained, said the statement, attributed to McCain and the state and national parties.

“We apologize that a portion of the Jackson Browne song ‘Running on Empty’ was used without permission,” the statement said.

Browne said he hoped the lawsuit and its successful resolution would have an impact on future political campaigns by putting an end to cavalier attitudes about artists’ copyrights.

“I would hope that they would think twice about taking someone’s song without permission and understand that the law was put to the test and our rights prevailed,” he said.

McCain’s campaign ran afoul of several musicians during his presidential run, including the Foo Fighters, Heart and John Mellencamp. Obama wasn’t immune either â soul legend Sam Moore asked his campaign to stop using “Soul Man.”

Browne released “Running on Empty” â the song and an album by the same name â in 1977. According to the lawsuit, the album has sold more than 7 million copies.

The lawsuit said Browne was concerned that use of his music would cause people to conclude that he was endorsing McCain, even though the 60-year-old singer-songwriter is a self-described liberal and contributed to Obama’s campaign.

It remains a concern for Browne.

“Thousands of people come to an event or they see it on TV and they see John Mellencamp’s song being used or Ann and Nancy Wilson’s song being used and they assume a kind of solidarity and a kind of endorsement that simply does not exist,” Browne said.

“Hopefully it will just go to illustrate there is a legal remedy for this.”

Browne and his attorney both said they expect the settlement, apology and McCain and the parties’ high profiles to prevent some future problems.

“The educational significance cannot be understated,” said Browne’s attorney, Lawrence Iser, a partner in the entertainment litigation firm Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert.

“People like Jackson have the right to license the use of their songs for political campaigns, or to choose not to,” Iser said. He noted that even though the ad using Browne’s song played on the Internet, copyright law doesn’t differentiate between those and other broadcasts.

Browne said the typical remedy to misuse of one’s music is to file a copyright infringement lawsuit, but that not all musicians can afford that. He brought his lawsuit, he said, to help protect the next generation of artists.

“If you don’t uphold the law that allows people to make a living from this, the result is you won’t have people able to do this work,” Browne said.

Archived comments

The Pretender wins!

(BONUS – coming to Red Rocks in August.)


7/21/2009 10:53:56 AM

It brings to mind the ill-advised Sarah Palin using Heart’s “Barracuda.”They also were enraged.It would follow that the G.O.P. would use artists’ works without permission, they are after all the party of thieves, the party of squashing artist’s grant money, the party of John Ashcroft clothing classical statues out of homosexual panic.Good for Jackson.


7/21/2009 2:30:59 PM

Nice stereotyping, tolerant liberal. Your bigoted, homophobic speech should not be allowed on these boards. This issue appears to be nothing more than an application of the Obama Administration’s redistribution policy. One would think a good progressive like Browne would applaud McCain’s use of his song – it’s not fair that most rock musicians are libs.


7/21/2009 3:59:51 PM

Well, there’s always Wayne Newton.


7/21/2009 4:00:24 PM

“The lawsuit said Browne was concerned that use of his music would cause people to conclude that he was endorsing McCain, even though the 60-year-old singer-songwriter is a self-described liberal and contributed to Obama’s campaign.”

I bet he wouldn’t have complained or sued if Obama used his song.


7/21/2009 4:39:04 PM

Didn’t know the evangelical folks were allowed to listen to Rock and Roll.


7/21/2009 5:07:02 PM

I didn’t know all Republicans were evangelical folks. You might want to zip up, katiekurt, your ignorance is showing. And it’s funny looking.


7/21/2009 5:31:23 PM

“I bet he wouldn’t have complained or sued if Obama used his song.”

Even if true, Bobscat, it really doesn’t matter, does it?


7/21/2009 6:14:14 PM

Daryl Hannah may have lied about being beaten by Jackson Browne and he beat the charge.

But, somebody beat her – if you saw the photos those black-eyes were real.Maybe somebody should question Michael Jackson cause he did a lot of beating??

Take my words for what they are worth because I studied and know a Cuckoo bird when I see one.


7/21/2009 7:54:30 PM

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