Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine is the latest rock star to demand that Rush Limbaugh stop using his music on the air. “Rush Limbaugh played “Sleep Now in the Fire” as a bumper on his show today,” Morello told Rolling Stone last night. “Our response: ‘Hey Jackass, stop using our music on your racist, misogynist, right wing clown show.” (He later tweeted the same message.)
Peter Gabriel, Rush and the Fabulous Thunderbirds have made public statements asking for their music to be pulled from Limbaugh’s syndicated talk show following the host’s personal attack on Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, whom he called a “slut” and a “prostitute” for defending women’s reproductive rights.
Though artists can certainly make their feelings known about the use of their music on the radio, they have no real legal power in actually enforcing demands to cease and desist. Radio networks are covered under blanket agreements for “public performance” of the songs in major publishing catalogs, and so long as those networks pay their licensing fees, they are allowed to play whatever they like within the bounds of FCC regulations.
Attorney Larry Iser, who successfully had music by Jackson Browne and Talking Heads removed from political ads by John McCain and Charlie Crist, tells Rolling Stone that while artists have limited rights in this matter, they still have plenty of influence in the court of public opinion. “The Constitution is the Constitution, and thank goodness for it,” says Iser. “They do have a legal right to stand up and make as much noise as possible about how appalled they are.”