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The Los Angeles Times

Jackson Browne Sues McCain For Using 'Running on Empty'

Margaret Wappler

Jackson Browne's "Running on Empty" could be considered the crown jewel in Browne's '70s repertoire of deeply personal songwriting. It was never meant to be a political song, least of all for a conservative candidate; in fact, the leftist connotations with the song itself and Browne's own liberal political history are well entrenched in pop culture. In 1988, Sidney Lumet's "Running on Empty," written by Naomi Foner (a.k.a. Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal's mom), follows a fugitive couple who, with their two sons, bounce from town to town in order to thwart FBI prosecution for blowing up a laboratory in radical protest of the Vietnam War. It earned a couple of Oscar nominations, including one for River Phoenix. Also, the video below is from "No Nukes," a 1979 concert where Browne performed "Running on Empty" to protest, well, you can figure that out. More recently, Browne has made appearances at rallies for Ralph Nader and John Edwards -- not exactly a GOP scene.

So then it wasn't a surprise to hear that Browne is suing John McCain for using the song "Running on Empty" in a campaign ad. Geoff Boucher at the Top of the Ticket blog has more on Browne's lawsuit and the response from McCain's camp:

Jackson Browne is suing John McCain for using the song "Running on Empty" in a campaign ad -- and the veteran rocker is also calling the candidate a great pretender when it comes to standing up for constitutional rights.

Browne, one of rock music's most famous activists for liberal causes, is "incensed" that the presumptive Republican candidate for president has been using Browne's signature 1977 song "Running on Empty" in campaign commercials, according to the singer-songwriter's attorney. Browne filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against both McCain and the Republican National Committee on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting the use of the forlorn arena anthem or any other Browne compositions, as well as damages.

They may be suing the wrong people. McCain spokesman Brian Rogers tells our colleague Seema Mehta in Colorado that the ad in question is not a McCain campaign ad but one put together by the Ohio Republican Party.

But Browne's attorney, Lawrence Y. Iser, says they have the right defendants. "We have sued the Ohio Republican Party as well, and we have been informed and believe that McCain and his campaign were well aware of the ad. We are also informed and believe that the ad was broadcast on television in Ohio and Pennsylvania.... The fact that it appears on the Internet means it also reaches an audience well beyond those states."

Iser said the lawsuit "is not politically motivated. It's a copyright infringement lawsuit, pure and simple, but the fact that Sen. McCain has used this song in a hit-piece on Barack Obama is anathema to Jackson."

Iser claims the McCain campaign has a track record of using music without permission.

Read the rest of 'Jackson Browne sues John McCain over song use'

© 2008 The Los Angeles Times

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