The Silversun Pickups have asked Mitt Romney's campaign to stop using their song "Panic Switch" at events. The band has issued a cease-and-desist order and released a statement Wednesday, roundly denouncing Romney and his campaign.
"We don't like people going behind our backs, using our music without asking, and we don't like the Romney campaign," frontman Brian Aubert wrote. "We're nice, approachable people. We won't bite. Unless you're Mitt Romney!"
UPDATE: Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul sent The Huffington Post the following statement: “The song was inadvertently played during event set-up before Gov. Romney arrived at the location. As anyone who attends Gov. Romney’s events knows, this is not a song we would have played intentionally. That said, it was covered under the campaign’s regular blanket license, but we will not play it again.”
The original article continues below.
A spokeswoman for the campaign told the Associated Press that while the campaign did not ask for permission for the song, it was allowed to play it under a "blanket licensing agreement." The campaign also said it would not play "Panic Switch" again.
The band suggested that Romney's use of the single was ironic because "he is inadvertently playing a song that describes his whole campaign."
Here's the song's chorus, as posted on online lyric websites:
When you see yourself in a crowded room
Do your fingers itch, are you pistol-whipped?
Will you step in line or release the glitch?
Can you fall asleep with a panic switch?
Romney wouldn't be the first politician to run afoul of a musician's wishes. Tom Petty sent Rep. Michele Bachmann a cease-and-desist after she used "American Girl" when announcing her presidential campaign. Talking Heads singer David Byrne sued then-Florida Gov. Charlie Crist for using "Road to Nowhere" in an attack ad Crist's campaign used in a race against Marco Rubio.
In fact, Romney himself faced similar issues in February, when singer K'Naan said the campaign used "Wavin' Flag" without permission. Like the Silversun Pickups, K'Naan said he did not support the Romney campaign and would not have allowed the use of the song even if he was asked. (More examples of artists suing politicians are available at the bottom of this article.)
TMZ has obtained a copy of the letter the Silversun Pickups' attorney sent Romney's campaign. "As the former governor of the state of Massachusetts, a graduate of Harvard Law School, and candidate for U.S. President, we're pretty sure you are familiar with the laws of this great country of ours," the snarky missive reads. "We're writing because, like you, we think these laws are important."
Here's the full statement:
Seems as if the GOP is once again whimsically ignoring our great nation's laws to do whatever it wants to do, and shooting itself in the foot in the process. Without any regard for copyright or intellectual property laws, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has, without permission, begun to use Silversun Pickups' 2009 smash "Panic Switch" at campaign stops across the country. Neither the band nor its representatives were contacted to gain permission for the use of the song and the band has no intention of endorsing the Romney campaign. The band's attorney issued a cease and desist today.
"We don't like people going behind our backs, using our music without asking, and we don't like the Romney campaign. We're nice, approachable people. We won't bite. Unless you're Mitt Romney! We were very close to just letting this go because the irony was too good. While he is inadvertently playing a song that describes his whole campaign, we doubt that 'Panic Switch' really sends the message he intends."
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) might be an "American Girl," but rocker Tom Petty doesn't want her using his song to say it. Bachmann closed her presidential campaign announcement on Monday by playing Petty's hit single, only to have the Heartbreakers frontman respond with a cease-and-desist letter. (Skip to 21:30 for Bachmann's exit)
During his unsuccessful independent bid for Senate in 2010, former Florida Governor Charlie Crist used the Talking Heads song "Road to Nowhere" in a web video targeting Republican candidate and eventual victor Marco Rubio. Talking Heads singer David Byrne quickly sued Crist for $1 million, claiming the song's placement implied his support for Crist's campaign. The two parties came to an agreement earlier this year. According to the Associated Press, the terms of the settlement were not released, but it included an apology by Crist that was posted on YouTube. Video of the apology is above.
Sam Moore, half of famed soul duo Sam & Dave, pushed back against then-candidate Barack Obama's use of their hit song "Hold On, I'm Comin'" during 2008 campaign rallies. Obama's camp reportedly honored Moore's request and stopped playing the song.
Nancy and Ann Wilson of the band Heart strongly protested the McCain campaign's use of their song "Barracuda" to introduce Sarah Palin at the 2008 Republican National Convention (Palin's high school nickname was "Barracuda"). McCain's camp replied that they had taken the appropriate measures to use the song legally. "The McCain campaign respects intellectual property rights. Accordingly, prior to using 'Barracuda' at any events, we paid for and obtained all necessary licenses," a spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal.
A lawyer for Canadian rock trio Rush told then-Kentucky GOP Senate candidate Rand Paul in 2010 that his campaign didn't have permission to use their song "Tom Sawyer" in a promotional web video. Another song, "Spirit of the Radio," had also not been authorized for use at Paul's rallies, the lawyer claimed. After the complaint, the Paul campaign reportedly cut the soundtrack from the ad and stopped using Rush's music at campaign events. (Above: "Tom Sawyer" by Rush)
The Foo Fighters accused John McCain of "pervert[ing] the original sentiment of the lyric[s]" to their song "My Hero" in a 2008 letter asking his campaign to stop using their music for promotional use. The McCain camp responded: "The McCain-Palin campaign respects copyright. Accordingly, this campaign has obtained and paid for licenses from performing rights organizations, giving us permission to play millions of different songs, including 'My Hero.'"
Classic rocker Jackson Browne sued the 2008 presidential candidate, the RNC and the Ohio Republican Party for allegedly using his song "Running on Empty" in a web video without permission. In 2009, nearly a year after filing the lawsuit, Browne emerged victorious. The defendants wrote at the time: "We apologize that a portion of the Jackson Browne song 'Running On Empty' was used without permission. Although Senator McCain had no knowledge of, or involvement in, the creation or distribution of the Web campaign video, Senator McCain does not support or condone any actions taken by anyone involved in his 2008 presidential election campaign that were inconsistent with artists' rights or the various legal protections afforded to intellectual property."
Former GOP presidential candidate and bass player Mike Huckabee made a habit of pulling out his four-string and playing Boston's "More Than a Feeling" on the campaign trail in 2008. That didn't please Tom Scholz, founder of the classic rock band and writer of the song. In a letter to Huckabee, Scholz asked the Arkansas governor to stop playing the ballad, saying that he'd "been ripped off." Huckabee's camp called the complaint ridiculous. Click over to Rolling Stone for Scholz's entire letter to Huckabee. (Above: Mike Huckabee's band, Capitol Offense, plays Boston's "More Than A Feeling")
Van Halen expressed displeasure with McCain's use of their song "Right Now" during a campaign event in 2008, claiming that "permission was not sought or granted, nor would it have been given." While the rock band was agitated, there were no reports of legal action at the time.
Springsteen was famously upset by Ronald Reagan's (ironic) use of his song "Born in the USA" for the Gipper's 1984 re-election campaign. The Associated Press reports that "Springsteen, a Democrat, bristled at his art being invoked for causes he opposed," though no formal motion was ever filed to bar Reagan from using the song.
John Hall, co-founder of rock band Orleans and a former congressman himself, complained in 2004 that George W. Bush was using the band's song "Still the One" without permission. The Bush camp removed it from its playlist following Hall's cease-and-desist order. Four years later, Hall, then serving as a House Democrat from New York, filed a similar complaint against McCain's campaign, calling it "yet another example of John McCain not learning anything from George Bush's mistakes." McCain's campaign stopped using the track soon thereafter, MSNBC reported.