We Need Copyright Eminent Domain

by Marc J. Randazza

I can’t take it anymore.

I woke up today, looked at my twitter feed, and what do I see? Our hero, Dee Snyder singing his iconic song… in a commercial … for a cell phone company.

“When does it end?!” indeed. WHEN. DOES. IT. END?

I do not begrudge Dee Snyder his sellout bucks. If he has an image and a song to sell – even to a German cell phone company, then who am I to tell him to take a vow of poverty for “integrity?”

Dee Snyder was one of the only people with a voice who stood up to Tipper Gore and the PMRC and their little “bored senators wives” campaign for censorship. Yeah, Frank Zappa, John Denver, and Dee Snyder deserve to be on the Mount Rushmore of celebrities who fought for your freedom. The man has enough integrity that he can spare a little to cash in right now.

So, no disrespect to Mr. Snyder.

But, I can’t take it anymore.

By “it” I mean the co-opting of great music for crass garbage fucking commercials.

Copyright law is complicated, as are entertainment contracts. For all I know, Dee Snyder had little choice. Or the money was so damn good, he’d have been an idiot to turn it down. One thing I’m sure of is that when he wrote We’re Not Gonna Take It, he never imagined that one day, he would be singing it in a paid mob of theater student extras to try and get more business for a billion deutschmark company.

But for fucks sake, this has to stop.

I felt the same way when I heard “Lust for Life” playing over the TV … of course, I perked up. “Wow, Iggy Pop on TV?” And then saw that it was for CARNIVAL FUCKING CRUISE LINES? Is there anything less Iggy Pop than a CRUISE? I was raised Catholic. My family has been Catholic since there was such a thing. When I heard that Catholic priests were raping little boys and the Church covered it up, I felt less betrayed THEN than I felt when I saw a FUCKING CRUISE LINE using Lust for Life.

How about How Soon is Now by the Smiths? Released on the 1985 album Meat is Murder, it has probably the most iconic guitar intro to any song (maybe Layla or Stairway to Heaven could give it a run for its money). It was a “classic” the day it was released. A song about alienation, loneliness, fucking teenagers smoking cigarettes hating shit.

And then it became the soundtrack to an ad for the NISSAN FUCKING MAXIMA? Bad enough that it was in a commercial at all. Worse still that it was in a car commercial. But the MAXIMA? The flagship of the loser who drives at 50 in the left hand lane? The most soul-less car ever made? If it had been used in an ad for the Yugo, at least that would have sort of tracked. Maybe in an ad for a car that is at least innovative? The Maxima should never have been built at all. If you drive one, you should crash it into a wall right now, with no seat belt on, with a knife at your chest — i don’t care which direction the knife is pointing. If at your chest, good. If the other way, then it will deflate the airbag, so good.

“Start Me Up” by the Rolling Stones? For FUCKING MICROSOFT? Did Mick Fucking Jagger not have enough money at that point? Microsoft wanted to use “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” and R.E.M. turned them down. The Rolling Stones couldn’t resist?

Maybe that isn’t as bad as the above examples. The world would have been a better place if the Rolling Stones had been in a plane crash in 1981 right after Tattoo You was released. Tattoo You was such a great album that if NASA chose to put it on a space probe as the single representation of Earth’s culture, I wouldn’t be pissed off. I probably would have chosen something better, but it wouldn’t make me upset. But everything they’ve done since then has been milquetoast corporate focus group manufactured shit.

So, I’m not so upset that the Rolling Stones were in a Microsoft commercial. Everything SINCE Tattoo You is essentially a corporate jingle anyway. But why the fuck did Bill Gates have to shit on their last meaningful cultural contribution? Because FUCK EVERYTHING. THAT’S WHY.

Oh, but it gets much worse.

Brian Ritchie, bassist for the Violent Femmes, filed suit against vocalist Gordon Gano in the Southern District of New York claiming in part that Gano allowed the song, Blister in the Sun to be used in a Wendy’s commercial.

Blister in the motherfucking sun… in a Wendy’s commercial.

Damn you all to hell. All of you.

It isn’t as if there aren’t plenty of “written for ad jingle” songs out there. “We built this City” by Jefferson Airplane? Use that shit. Or literally anything by Green Day. Kid Rock hawked for Coors Beer. Well, that’s on brand. Sting selling Jaguar Cars? Sure, no disappointment there.

So how do we solve this?

Why not a form of eminent domain?

I’m not saying that the government should be able to take the music. Fuck that. If we had that, the government would have a whole agency devoted to shutting down any music that suppressed its chosen narrative. But, dear God, we have to do SOMETHING before the Clash winds up in an Old Navy ad, don’t we?

So why not a law that permits private citizens to bid against ad companies when it comes to buying off the rights to a song. Before Old Navy can buy “Police On My Back,” it has to be published somewhere that the rights are being sold for advertising purposes.

Then, if anyone checks the “sellout gazette” and notices that there’s a song being sold this way, they can start a crowd-fund to buy the rights for the public domain. If they raise less than the amount committed to by the company that wants to put it in an ad, then tough shit. But, if they raise more, then the rights pass to a creative commons license — that license being that the song can be sampled or used for other artistic purposes anywhere close to fair use. But, they are blocked from being used in an ad until the copyright term expires.

Why not?

Copyright needs a more robust public domain. Corporations don’t need a greater amount of access to the ability to take a giant shit on everything.

Because if I hear The Clash in an Old Navy Ad, I’m gonna join Antifa.

2 Responses to We Need Copyright Eminent Domain

  1. Kia Kam says:

    guys. . . who’s going to tell him that the Clash (my fave band) are already in several ads (including some cloud-based computing some shit right now). But seriously Marc I get the joke, but (as a music lawyer) this is a horrible, awful, dogshit idea, not just because it proposes a VASTLY different and broader use (creative commons) than any commercial will make of the licensed track, but (unless you REALLY MEAN a “taking” in the “eminent domain” sense), ain’t no lawyer going to advise their artist/band client to consent to this. But I giggled.

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