In copyright lawsuit, McCain claims he wasn't aware RNC ad 'existed'
John Byrne
Published: Tuesday February 24, 2009

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"My friends, I didn't do it. I didn't even know it was going on."

That's the line former Republican presidential nominee and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is taking in a federal lawsuit that claims he violated the copyright of Jackson Browne's 1977 hit song, "Running on Empty," when it aired in one of his presidential campaign commercials.

A federal judge allowed the suit to move forward Friday.

"I was not involved at all in any way in the writing, creation, production, distribution or dissemination of the video, nor do I have any knowledge whatsoever of how this video was written, created, produced or disseminated or who was involved in any aspect of the writing, creation, production, distribution or dissemination of the video," McCain said in a statement acquired by Wired's David Kravets. "I was completely unaware that this video even existed until I was informed of it after this lawsuit was filed."

McCain claims the Republican Party is solely responsible for his campaign ad, not him, and has asked that he be stripped from the case.

The federal judge handling the case disagreed. Judge Gary Klausner said McCain and the GOP have an "agency relationship," meaning that "once an agency relationship is established, the principal is liable for the acts of her agent, even if the principal does not expressly authorize or instruct her agent to take any action." He also questioned how using 20 seconds of the song in a TV ad constituted fair use, as the RNC claims.

Brownes attorney, Lawrence Y. Iser, said last August he believes McCain knew of the ad and should be held responsible.

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, he told a reporter last August, adding that the litigation was not politically motivated. Its 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.

Browne says the ad also falsely implies his support for McCain. "Nothing could be farther from the truth," he's remarked.

In the song, Browne croons, "Honey you really tempt me / You know the way you look so kind / Id love to stick around but Im running behind /You know I dont even know what Im hoping to find / Running into the sun but Im running behind."

Running behind, indeed.

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