ABC Sports alleges Pawlenty campaign violated copyright by using Miracle on Ice footage

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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ABC Sports is alleging that Tim Pawlenty violated copyright law when his campaign used footage from “Miracle on Ice,” to which ABC Sports owns the rights, in a new political ad.

The footage of the U.S. hockey team’s amazing defeat over the Soviet team in the 1980 Olympic Winter Games appears in Pawlenty’s newest ad, “The American Comeback,” released Thursday and running on Iowa television.

According to a report by ABC News, ABC Sports is contending that it did not give the Pawlenty campaign permission to use the footage.

“We would never authorize the use of our proprietary material for use in a campaign for any candidate,” Louise Argianas, a spokesperson for ABC Sports, told ABC News.

The Pawlenty campaign maintains that its use of the footage was in full compliance with the law.

“All of our campaign television advertising is carefully reviewed by the campaign’s lawyers to ensure compliance with the copyright laws, the federal election laws, and other legal provisions. The campaign’s ‘Miracle on Ice’ advertisement was carefully reviewed for legal compliance and we believe fully complies with the ‘fair use’ doctrine. We respect ABC’s concern and look forward to responding to their inquiry,” wrote Pawlenty spokesperson Alex Conant in a statement.

Trevor Potter of Caplin and Drysdale, who served as general counsel to the McCain campaign, says that such arguments about campaign ads are common. (Huntsman’s campaign manager resigns)

“Every campaign gets into these sorts of disputes when they use commonly-available video footage that is subject to intellectual property protection. The campaigns always contend that the footage they used is ‘fair use’ (only a small portion of the protected material), not confusing to the viewer, and protected political speech under the First Amendment. Copyright holders are conversely pushed by THEIR lawyers to ‘protect’ the copyright by objecting to all unauthorized uses, even political ones such as Pawlenty’s. These disputes are usually resolved by the campaign agreeing to cease use of the offending footage – a concession that usually comes after the campaign has already decided the ad has served its purpose and moved on anyway. Almost never do they result in a final judgment on the legal issues by a court,” Potter wrote in an email.