Sorry, 2020 Candidates: Dolly Parton Doesn't Like Any of You Using Her Music
After Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren kicked off her presidential bid last month using Dolly Parton‘s song “9 to 5,” the country icon’s manager is reminding everyone that Parton, 73, doesn’t want to get political.
Danny Nozell told the Associated Press in an email that Parton’s team didn’t approve Warren’s use of the Oscar-winning track.
“We did not approve the request, and we do not approve requests like this of [a] political nature,” Nozell wrote. (A Parton rep referred PEOPLE to Nozell’s email to the AP. Warren’s campaign declined to comment to the AP.)
Warren, 69, is only the latest in a long history of politicians being chastised by musicians over their songs being used in campaigns.
As Pitchfork noted in 2016, Neil Young slammed President Donald Trump for playing “Rockin’ in the Free World” at his own campaign announcement. Before that, former President Barack Obama was criticized by Sam & Dave’s Sam Moore for using their “Hold On, I’m Comin’.”
Sens. Ted Cruz, John McCain and Mitt Romney have also all heard from various musicians protesting the use of their music for political reasons.
Parton herself has been careful not to stake out partisan positions, telling Fox & Friends in 2017, “Everybody knows I don’t do politics.”
“My mother was a Democrat and my daddy was a Republican, so I’m a hypocrite,” she joked. “And I’ve got as many Republican fans as Democrats and I don’t want to make any of them mad at me.”
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Speaking with ABC last year, Parton said, “I learned a long time ago, keep your damn mouth shut if you want to stay in show business. … I’m not in politics, I’m an entertainer.”
Legally, there is a lot of latitude for politicians who only occasionally use a given song at a live event: They — or the venue — just have to obtain a public performance license, usually via one of the few large performing rights organizations such as the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.
Even with a public performance license, candidates could still face legal challenges over the music they use, according to ASCAP: Artists could claim false endorsement, right of publicity or the Lanham Act (which deals with unauthorized use of a trademark).
According to the Recording Industry Association of America, things can also get tricky if a song is used repeatedly by a campaign such that it could be mistaken for a “theme song.”
Because of the technicalities of copyright law, use of an artist’s music in a campaign video requires different licensing, according to ASCAP.
Parton’s manager did not say if they would formally complain about Warren’s use of “9 to 5,” according to the AP.