Third Parties to Obama, Romney: Leave Us Alone

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In both cases, the campaigns said they would review the situation and, sooner or later, the issues, like other fleeting campaign hiccups, faded away.

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So what can be done when a celebrity or anyone else discovers they're unwittingly at the center of a political campaign?

Not much, say intellectual property experts, unless the candidate explicitly claims a false endorsement.

Free-speech protections enshrined in the Constitution regard political speech as paramount and make it tough to seek legal recourse. Public figures like celebrities and TV anchors lose their expectation of privacy, and with it, their ability to control most of what others say about them.

"Here's the great thing about our society: They have the right to complain," said Carole Handler, who teaches entertainment and copyright law at University of Southern California Law School. "Unless it's really, really horrible, the best remedy is more speech."

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Often times, a public gripe is enough to do the trick. After all, no candidate wants a protracted scuffle with a beloved celebrity or well-respected group.

That approach worked for singer Sam Moore, who, in 2008, asked Obama to stop using "Soul Man" at rallies. Obama's campaign acquiesced.

But the Republican opponent that year, Arizona Sen. John McCain, was less compliant when John Mellencamp and the Foo Fighters asked his campaign to stop using their songs. McCain had licensed the songs' use from music clearinghouses, so the artists couldn't sue. But another artist, Jackson Browne, filed a lawsuit against McCain that eventually led to an undisclosed settlement — and a public apology from McCain.

Bruce Springsteen, who is campaigning for Obama this week in Ohio and Iowa, famously lashed out at President Ronald Reagan for using the liberal rocker's "Born in the U.S.A." in his 1984 re-election campaign. Two decades earlier, Broadway producer David Merrick is said to have threatened to sue GOP presidential nominee Barry Goldwater after the title song from "Hello Dolly" was redubbed "Hello Barry."

Merrick had no qualms, though, when the show's star, Carol Channing, belted out the similarly fashioned "Hello Lyndon" at the 1964 Democratic National Convention when President Lyndon B. Johnson was nominated for a full term.


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