Election Campaign Jingles: Do They Bother With Copyright?

It’s election season once again, folks. It’s the time for crappy campaign advertisements on TV and radio, poster-polluted streets, and musically-challenged jingles. We’ve heard them over and over–campaign lyrics sung to the tune of popular songs, mostly from vans blaring the songs from tinny speakers (which makes the songs barely comprehensible). Apparently, music is an essential aspect of Philippine politics. I’ve long since wondered, however, whether the politicians campaigning using these songs ever bother about copyright.

So far, I’ve observed that La Bamba is among the more popular tunes; it has been used since the 80’s because of the easy by which you can replace the chorus lyrics (and because the tune is traditional, and hence not copyrighted). These recent years, though, I believe politicians turned their preference towards novelty tunes, such as those by Lito Camo (PCIJ had a feature on this back in 2004).

Sure, for the local music, the candidates could always ask permission from the composers or music labels. But what about those songs with international composers? I’m wondering whether their local labels/distributorships have given the go signal to use their music. Otherwise, that’s a clear violation of intellectual property. I’m pretty sure using musical compositions for campaign purposes is outside of fair use.

At any rate, if it’s true that music (leading to name recall) is the one aspect that can make or break a campaign, then perhaps our country has no hope of successfully moving from personality-based politics into one that is based on party platforms and idealism.

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  • Some of Lito Camo’s hit songs are based on the traditional children songs (boom tarat, bulaklak, …). Most of the time it is the chorus part of the song. For the traditional children song (chorus tune), which made popular again by Lito Camo … I think politicians can use them as their jingle (need some copyright lawyers here)

  • Even if the song is Public Domain, the lyrics are intellectual property, hence the politician (theoretically) needs permission from the composer (or lyricist as the case maybe).

    Most of the politicians do get permission, in my experience in elections. The problem, though, comes when the politician looses. The guy then develops selective Alzheimer’s and forgets to pay (actually for everything he contracted/used during the elections like tshirts, streamers, posters, etc.)

    Hence, the “money down” approach works best.

  • Either way, what we should be concerned about is the impact these songs have.

    I mean, it doesn’t take much to get a vote. Sometimes, the jingle does it. Sometimes it’s Php 2,000.

    So what’s the difference in the result anyway. Copyright violations are the least of our concerns.

  • That is, if there will DARE to file a case against them…

  • As long as the dibidi stalls in Quiapo and everywhere else in the country stans and thrives, copyright lawsuits would be very minimal in the Philippines, let alone taken seriously by the courts.