Copyright Abolition & Cultural Progression: Emphasis on Political Campaigns

Copyright issues have arisen since our society has continued to become ever more technical upon our approach to law, life, and ownership. “Authorship” and “works” have been slowly but surely redefined in today’s society in many legal and social situations. These terms are becoming more public than ever with the invention of the internet and are allowing access of many works to individuals (especially young generations) across international borders. In turn, this is affecting and changing our culture as we know it, effecting many spectrums of our society including political campaigns.

Larry Lessig describes the change of copyright and says that today, digital technology is the revival of read-write user innovated content, a culture where people produce for the love of what they are doing not the money, and become available to new business endeavors. in the 2008 campaign, McCain decided he wanted to use Jackson Browne’s song, “Running On Empty,” because it complimented the strategy of his political campaign. Browne tried to sue McCain for copyright issues, claiming that he never gave McCain permission of his use.

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It was a challenge to put art before politics when Browne is a supporter of the far left, opposite of McCain’s views. Browne’s argument was that McCain unlawfully used his music material without permission throughout the campaign. Therefore, because of this, it gave the people of the United States the impression that Browne was supporting McCain in his political endeavors. Browne claimed voice misappropriation. Browne’s lawyer also mentioned that copyright is in the constitution. McCain’s defense mostly represented the fact that his campaign – a marketing effort that includes many creative endeavors (and McCain made sure to emphasize the fact that he doesn’t make all the decisions based upon the marketing and campaign of his presidential aspirations).

So what’s to be done? Young individuals are at fault of using music for this kind of thing all the time without proper citation within music, photography, clips of films, etc. So where does this situate us in today’s society? Lessig mentions that today, legal philosophy can accommodate the state of remix culture; there needs to be a mix of proper commercial rights and allowed use in common culture.

Within every culture today there is the ability to take the work of others and use it to integrate and create something new. There is a growing “copyright abolitionism.” This is because of the Internet and newer innovations: they have given younger generations and thriving professionals like those running the McCain campaign, the means to reach a new potential; to create works and marketing techniques as well as art that is an appropriation and hybridization of previous works. Lessig mentions in a forum presentation, that “We watched TV, they make TV… We listened to music they are making music…” in reference to those avidly using the internet (geared specifically toward young professionals and generations). In order to come to a sensible agreement, we must see the hybrid of past and future laws of copyright.

Many laws will need to be taken into account. A suggestion that could potentially cure some of the lawsuits unraveling at a rapid rate today is the level and definition of success. If an artist mixes say, one of Beyonce’s songs with their own mix, and it becomes “successful” and profitable, then there is potential room for monetary compensation within the realms of copyright to original artists and stakeholders within that particular art. However, the word “success” will need to be carefully defined within each genre of expression (i.e. songs, campaigns, movies, etc.)

In his synopsis, “Digital Technology and Cultural Goods,” by Kieran Healy, he comes to the realization that, “Computer software need not only be used to prevent access to cultural goods. It can also be used to create new goods which cause trouble for existing standards of free speech…In the techno-libertarian vision of the Internet, information wants to be free and, in the long run, no-one can stop it.”

Because of this rapid innovation and unstoppable burst of creativity due to new sociotechnological forms and the Internet, revising these rules of copyright to benefit both the creators and owners of distribution. For example, approval and possible commission for Brown could possibly have put his conscience as ease when it came to McCain’s campaign. His staff picked his song because it worked for McCain’s particular marketing audience and messaging. Because all of this information is becoming more remixed, and universal across international borders (within music, film, art, photography, paintings, marketing, etc.) I think a reform of law is in order to sort out what is truly the “authorship” and “work” of an individual, and under what circumstances. It is beginning to trend into a situational type of law; each case is based upon certain circumstances. A change in culture sometimes requires a change of law as well as a change of attitude. With the innovations in technology, addressing new copyright rules in the imminent future will enable the change within the law that empowers the younger generations and the future of America.

“Barack Obama “Hope” Poster.” Wikipedia. N.p., 2008. Web. 10 Feb. 2014. <>.

Horowitz, Carl. “Jackson Browne Versus John McCain: An Empty Suit.” N.p., 13 Dec. 2008. Web. 10 Feb. 2014. <>.

Kieran Healy, “Digital Technology and Cultural Goods,” Journal of Political Philosophy 10, no. 4 (2002): 478–500.

“Larry Lessig: Laws That Choke Creativity.” YouTube. YouTube, 15 Nov. 2007. Web. 10 Feb. 2014. <>.

Lawrence Lessig, Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy (New York, NY: Penguin Press, 2008).