A Mitt Romney campaign video that features Barack Obama singing Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" has been pulled from YouTube at the request of the label. Public Knowledge found that the video had been taken down at the request of publisher BMG Rights Management, which manages the work of song co-writer Al Jackson, Jr. The Romney video juxtaposed Obama's performance (which is featured in many other YouTube videos) with text about his alleged ties to lobbyists and campaign donors. It's not a clear-cut case of fair use — relatively few things are — but its removal could make other politicians and pundits more leery of using similar material, even if it's only tangentially related to the original song.
Clashes between politicians and artists aren't that unusual, especially as election season heats up. During the 2008 election, vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was told to stop using Heart's song "Barracuda" because of political disagreement. YouTube's administration, which often honors takedown requests quickly and recants only if the video maker protests, can muddle the issue further. The NFL successfully removed a well-known Chrysler Super Bowl commercial without explanation, though it was later reposted. What makes this particularly strange, however, is that BMG recently signed a deal to make posting cover versions of its songs on YouTube easier. We've reached out to BMG for more information and will update if we get a response.