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Tim Pawlenty's use of 'Miracle on Ice' footage reportedly upsets ABC

July 21, 2011 |  7:04 pm


Tim Pawlenty was right to align his campaign with that of the underdog USA men's hockey team that upset the Soviets in the 1980 Olympics. But ABC Sports thinks he was wrong to use footage from that historic game in his latest commercial.

According to the Des Moines Register, ABC will soon be sending the Pawlenty campaign a cease-and-desist letter because the Republican presidential hopeful not only used the network's copyrighted footage but included a soundbite of Al Michaels' famous line, "Do you believe in miracles?"

“It’s a violation of our copyright and exclusive proprietary rights,”  Louise Argianas, director of rights and clearances for ABC Sports, told the Register.

Argianas added that because Pawlenty's 30-second spot used Michaels' voice, she would also have to notify the announcer's agent. The ad began airing Wednesday in Iowa.

Pawlenty campaign spokesman Alex Conan told the Register and media organizations that the campaign believed the footage in the ad was protected under "fair use."

"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," Conan said.

"Fair use" is a fuzzy concept that even the United States Copyright Office has difficulty putting into words.

"The distinction between fair use and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission," the office states on its website, adding that the best course is to simply ask for permission.

Would ABC Sports have granted a politician permission to use one of their clips for a struggling presidential campaign?

The likelihood of that is even worse than a group of college kids taking on the Soviets as most news outlets shy away from giving the impression that they are backing one politician over another.



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-- Tony Pierce

Photo: Republican presidential candidate and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty speaks at a town hall campaign event on July 7, 2011, in Urbandale, Iowa. Credit: AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall