Sony Music has ordered Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega to stop using the classic rhythm and blues tune “Stand By Me” in a campaign ad that asks voters to elect the former guerrilla leader to a questioned third term.
The request to pull the advertisement from television and radio under the threat of legal action was made in a letter that Sony/ATV Music Publishing sent to Ortega’s party, the Sandinista National Liberation Front, on Aug. 22. Use of the song, recorded in 1960 by Ben E. King, constitutes a “serious infringement” of Sony’s copyright, the Santa Monica, California-based company said in the cease and desist order, a copy of which was published yesterday by Managua-based newspaper La Prensa.
“We don’t allow our songs to be used by political campaigns,” Jimmy Asci, a spokesman for Sony/ATV in New York, said in a phone interview.
Beginning in July, a Spanish version of the famous song, re-titled “Nicaragua Will Triumph,” began airing on television with footage or Ortega from 1979, when he commanded the Sandinista rebels that toppled the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza.
The five-minute video opens with black and white images of early 20th century revolutionary Augusto Sandino, the ideological father of Ortega’s movement, set to the lyrics “when the sun went away.” It then flashes forward to 2007 and an image of Ortega receiving the presidential sash to the chorus “when the sun came back.”
“Stand By Me” was listed fourth in the “Top 100 Songs of the Century” on American radio and television published in 1999 by Nashville, Tennessee-based Broadcast Music Inc. It was also featured in director Rob Reiner’s 1986 movie by the same name.
The order to pull the ad was addressed to Sandinista legislator Edwin Castro, the head of Ortega’s party in the National Assembly. Castro did not respond to calls or an e-mail from Bloomberg seeking comment.
Ortega is favored in polls to win re-election Nov. 6 after the pro-government majority in the Supreme Court overrode a boycott by opposition justices and lifted a constitutional ban on incumbent presidents seeking consecutive re-election or a third term.
Ortega, who was previously president from 1985 to 1990 and elected a second time in 2006, had the support of 45.8 percent of those surveyed by Managua pollster CID-Gallup. Fabio Gadea was backed by 33.5 percent of those polled followed by 10.1 percent for former President Arnoldo Aleman. The poll of 1,200 people was taken Sept. 10-16 had a margin of error of 2.95 percent.
To win the Nicaraguan election, the top candidate must earn more than 40 percent of the vote or have 35 percent with at least a 5 percent lead over the second place finisher.