An unlikely legal showdown occurred over the past week between rapper/producer/mogul Dr. Dre and Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor-Greene.
On January 9, a video was posted on Greene’s social media accounts that showed footage of her strutting through the hallways of the Capitol Building set to the instantly recognizable beat and piano loop from Dr. Dre’s song “Still D.R.E.”
Dre quickly issued a statement to TMZ, stating “I don’t license my music to politicians, especially someone as hateful and divisive as this one.” This was followed by a scathing letter from Dre’s lawyer accusing Greene of violating the Copyright Act by using Dre’s song in a political advertisement without obtaining a license. “One might expect,” wrote Dre’s attorney, “that, as a member of Congress, you would have a passing familiarity with the laws of our country. It’s possible, though, that laws governing intellectual property are a little too arcane and insufficiently populist for you to really have really spent too much time on. We’re writing because we think an actual lawmaker should be making laws not breaking laws, specially those embodied in the constitution by the founding fathers.”
In a subsequent statement to TMZ, Greene took her own shot, responding that “while I appreciate the creative chord progression, I would never play your words of violence against women and police officers, and your glorification of thug life and drugs.”
However, two days later, Greene’s attorneys wrote back, confirming that “no further use of [Dre’s[ copyright will be made by a political committee or via social media outlet [Greene] controls.”
Artists have frequently objected to the use of their songs in political settings. Recently, Neil Young, Guns N’ Roses, Pharrell, Rihanna and the Tom Petty Estate have all publicly objected to the use of their songs in Donald Trump’s rallies and campaign events. Many of those complaints have not been resolved as decisively as this one because the laws that govern the public performance of music are different. Performance rights are subject to various blanket licenses that raise the possibility that even if Trump does not hold a license to perform the song, the venue in which the event is being held might.
These complications do not apply here, where Dre’s song was used to accompany video footage. Absent a license, this suggests a more straight-forward instance of copyright infringement. This is likely why, unlike Trump, Greene was quick to write back and acquiesce to Dre’s demand to cease and desist. To ignore the issue, or keep pushing back on it, would likely have resulted in a high-profile copyright infringement lawsuit that Green apparently had no taste for.