The complaint against Crist, a longtime Republican who’s now running as an independent for U.S. Senate, and his campaign was filed today in federal court in Tampa, Florida, said Byrne’s lawyer, Lawrence Iser. Byrne seeks $1 million in damages based on the estimated value of the licensing rights to the song, Iser said in a telephone interview.
Byrne said in statement that he has never licensed a song to be used in an advertisement.
“I’m a bit of a throwback that way, as I still believe songs occasionally mean something to people,” Byrne said in the statement. “A personal and social meaning is diluted when that same song is used to sell a product or a politician.”
Crist used the song from the 1985 Talking Heads album “Little Creatures” in an online ad when he was still running as a Republican to attack his opponent in the primary, Marco Rubio, Byrne said in the complaint. Crist’s campaign used the song without obtaining required licenses, according to complaint.
Michelle Todd, a spokeswoman for Crist, had no immediate comment on the lawsuit.
Byrne said in a telephone interview that he found out in January from a friend in New York that Crist was using his song in an ad and that he would have objected to the unlicensed use of his song by a Democrat as well.
“I was angry but I wasn’t 100 percent surprised,” Byrne said, referring to previous instances where songs by other artists were used by campaigns without permission.
Last year, Senator John McCain and the Ohio Republican Party settled a similar lawsuit brought by singer Jackson Browne over McCain’s use of the musician’s “Running on Empty” in an ad during the 2008 presidential campaign.
The case is Byrne v. Crist, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida (Tampa.)