The song’s called “Let’s Stay Together”, but music publisher BMG is singing “Beat It.” The company unceremoniously yanked a Mitt Romney campaign ad featuring Al Green’s 1971 hit from YouTube Tuesday citing copyright infringement.
Interestingly, it wasn’t Green singing the song, but President Obama — who helped give the song an unlikely renaissance after crooning a few bars during a January campaign event.
The Romney campaign used Obama’s version in an ad entitled “Political Payoffs and Middle Class Layoffs,” which, according to its release, intends to show that “Instead of working to restore economic security, President Obama is too busy rewarding his biggest donors.”
It was a response to a similar video released a few days by the Obama campaign called “Firms”, which interlaces a series of news headlines critical of Romney’s reliance on outsourcing with Romney’s rendition of “America the Beautiful.” (The anthem was first published in the 19th Century and is legally in the public domain, meaning the Obama team faces no similar legal headaches.)
The main difference between the videos — apart from vocal ability — is that while “Firms” is still available online, anyone attempting to view Romney’s ad will instead be faced with the message saying “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by BMG_Rights_Management.” (The video’s since been copied and uploaded by others; it can be watched here, for the time being.)
“Let’s Stay Together” is owned by BMG Rights Management, one of the largest music publishing companies in the world. The organization filed a request for YouTube to remove Romney’s video under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Right-leaning news site The Daily Caller has drawn attention to the fact that BMG and Crown/Random House, which published of Obama’s two autobiographical works, as well as his campaign plan and Michelle Obama’s new book, are both owned by German conglomerate Bertlesmann AG — and thus clear examples of the outsourcing that Obama’s own ad condemns.
The Romney campaign are now battling to get the video back online. A spokesperson told the Huffington Post, “Our use was 100% proper, under fair use, and we plan to defend ourselves.”