Rock star Jackson Browne has sued U.S. presidential candidate John McCain for copyright infringement, accusing the presumptive Republican nominee of using the singer’s 1977 hit “Running on Empty” in a campaign ad without permission.
The suit, filed on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, also names the Republican National Committee and the Ohio Republican Party as defendants. It seeks a permanent injunction against further use of Browne’s music and at least $75,000 in damages.
The campaign spot mocks McCain’s Democratic rival for the White House, Barack Obama, for suggesting the nation conserve gasoline through proper tire inflation, with Browne’s most famous song, “Running on Empty,” playing in the background.
The suit claims use of the song without Browne’s permission is a copyright violation and a breach of the U.S. Lanham Act by falsely implying Browne is associated with and endorses McCain’s bid for president.
It also says use of Browne’s voice in the ad violates the performer’s so-called right of publicity under California law.
Browne’s lawyer, Lawrence Iser, said his client is “a well-known, lifelong liberal activist and supporter of Democratic candidates, and use of his song and his voice in a commercial bashing Barack Obama is anathema to Jackson.”
A spokesman for McCain’s campaign, Brian Rogers, said the Arizona senator was wrongly singled out as a target of the lawsuit because the ad in question was the sole work of the Ohio Republican Party.
“We had nothing to do with the creation or distribution of this ad whatsoever,” Rogers told Reuters. “Mr. McCain’s name should quite simply be removed from this lawsuit immediately.”
But Iser said the Republican Party of Ohio, a key battleground state in the presidential race, “acted as an agent and in concert with Sen. McCain and the Republican National Committee.”
“It certainly looks and smells like a McCain campaign piece,” he added. “We’ll let a jury decide.
There was no immediate comment from the RNC or Ohio Republican Party representatives.
Iser said the ad, which he said he believed was aired on television in Ohio and Pennsylvania, was removed from the Internet last week by the Ohio Republican Party in response to a cease-and-desist demand from Browne.