Can Sarah Palin Keep Firing Up “Barracuda”?

noah | September 9, 2008 9:30 am
Last week, Heart’s Wilson sisters got incensed over the McCain/Palin campaign’s playing their song “Barracuda” during the Republican National Convention in honor of vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s high-school nickname. The sisters claimed that they were so fired up they sent off a cease and desist to the GOP, and a Republican spokesman coldly said that the song was being rightfully used. So what’s the deal? Slate has helpfully provided a guide to the types of licenses the McCain campaign would need if they’d like to continue using the song.

Playing it over the speakers at the convention is fair game. The Republicans needed a license from American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, which licenses and controls the publishing rights for “Barracuda” as well as thousands of other songs, in order to play it over the speakers at the Xcel Center in St. Paul last week. And they did acquire said license, according to a party spokesperson who spoke to Slate.

Using it in a video about Palin’s penchant for shooting down wolves from the comfort of a plane and “suggesting” that books be removed from libraries, maybe not. In order to use the song in video montages, the GOP needs what’s called a “sync license,” a bit of legalese (and cash) that allows a piece of music to become attached to a video or other work. Some artists ask to be contacted before sync licenses for their songs are granted, in order to preserve at least some of their works’ thematic sanctity.

If the GOP keeps using the song, the Wilson sisters may be able to put their foot down. Depending on which state’s legal muscle they decide to flex, Ann and Nancy can say that the McCain/Palin campaign is violating their “right to publicity” by associating them with a person who they’re obviously appalled by. (Something tells me that Palin is getting a big kick out of how she’s winding up Heart, and will continue using the song every time she’s allowed out to speak in public, playing it on Guitar Hero, etc.)

Will McCain’s Heart Stop? [Slate] ‘Barracuda’ Belongs to the Rock Group Heart [NYT] Heart – Barracuda [YouTube]