"Going All Jackson Browne": Limiting Fair Use and Reclaiming Artistic Integrity In Light of Browne v. McCain

Publication Year



Jackson Browne, fair use, copyright law, John McCain


American Politics | Intellectual Property Law | Legal History | Musicology | United States History


In 1977, Jackson Browne released the most successful album of his career, Running on Empty, which featured an equally successful song by the same name. In 2008, the Ohio Republican Party used that song in a commercial promoting then Republican presidential candidate John McCain and mocking Democratic candidate Barack Obama. They did not have permission to do so. Thus began a firestorm, not political as might be expected of events surrounding a presidential election, but legal. As Browne filed suit against McCain and the Republican Party over the unauthorized use of his work, his "action marked the fist time that an American presidential candidate has been sued for music copyright violation." Browne moved into dangerous territory, an area of law that pits conflicting and vital constitutional protections against each other. Nonetheless, Browne's complaint was firmly rooted in the Constitution. Article I Section 8, Clause 8 of the Constitution provides this promise of Congress's duty: To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

Department 1 Awarding Honors Status

Political Science

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