Copyright Law and Presidential Politics – Intellectual Property Law – Case Study #2

Originally posted 2018-02-27 10:00:35

A YouTube video put out by Mitt Romney’s campaign team was taken down on Monday due to copyright infringement, exemplifying the free speech obstacle that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act can be.

For the last few days, President Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney have been trading blows over Romney’s alleged role in the layoffs at Bain Capital a decade ago. One hit to Romney was an ad released by Obama featuring Romney singing “America the Beautiful” over a slideshow of abandoned American factories. Romney’s campaign team responded with a similar ad showing President Obama singing Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” contrasted with headlines about Obama rewarding lobbyists and campaign donors.

However, if you tried to view the ad on YouTube a few days ago, you would have found this message: “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by BMG_Rights_Management.”

The update is that Youtube has restored the video after its competitor, Vimeo posted the video first.

But does the video actually constitute copyright infringement?

The advertisement seems to be a very clear case of fair use. Obama singing “Let’s Stay Together” is an integral part of the ad, and copyright law is very clear on the issue of commentary and criticism justifying fair use. Not to mention how difficult of a case it would be to make that the ad actually harms the market for “Let’s Stay Together.” The utility gained from listening to Obama’s one line in the video is hardly equal to pirating a copy of the track.

A Romney spokesperson said that the campaign plans to fight to get the video back up, but the damage has already been done. The Romney campaign could have filed a counter notice saying that it believes its clip to be fair use, but YouTube is required to wait a minimum of 10 days before putting the video back up. In a presidential campaign, the news cycle is measured in hours. In 10 days, any effect the video might have had will be lost.

Take a look for yourself.

Video and image courtesy of Vimeo


Political Payoffs and Middle Class Layoffs from Romney For President on Vimeo.

Copyright law and its intersection into presidential politics!

For more information about copyright law, contact the AMD Law Group at or call (800)605-0785.