David Byrne Sues Florida Governor Charlie Crist for $1 Million

Talking Head leader sues over unauthorized use of music in Republican Senate campaign

May 24, 2010 5:02 PM ET

Add David Byrne to the growing list of musicians who are suing politicians for using their music without permission on the campaign trail. The Talking Heads frontman is taking legal action against Charlie Crist after the Florida governor used the group's 1985 hit "Road to Nowhere" in a campaign ad slamming then-Republican primary candidate Marco Rubio, Billboard reports. In the lawsuit filed today in Tampa, Florida, Byrne claims Crist didn't ask for or receive permission from either Byrne or Talking Heads' label Warner Bros to use the song; Byrne also asserts that such use wrongfully insinuates Byrne's endorsement of Crist's candidacy. The singer is seeking $1 million in damages.

"I was pretty upset by that," Byrne told Billboard. Even though Warner Bros has managed to get the campaign ad pulled, Byrne says that "the damage had already been done by it being out there. People that I knew had seen [the ad] so it had gotten around. It's about copyright and about the fact that it does imply that I would have licensed it and endorsed him and whatever he stands for." Byrne is suing for $1 million because it's the amount he's typically offered for use of his songs in commercials.

Crist has since shifted from Republican to Independent status in the Florida Senate race but today's suit is the latest in a long line of incidents where Republicans have used classic rock songs without an artist's permission. As Rolling Stone previously reported, Heart, Foo Fighters, Boston, Van Halen, John Mellencamp and, most notably, Jackson Browne all complained or took legal action when Republicans used their music during the 2008 Presidential campaign. In fact, Byrne's lawyer Lawrence Iser also represented Browne when the singer sued John McCain over his unauthorized use of "Running on Empty." (The suit that was eventually settled for an undisclosed sum.) In Browne's settlement, the Republican Party was ordered to "respect and uphold the rights of artists and to obtain permissions and/or licenses for copyrighted works where appropriate."

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