President Obama famously sang a few lines of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” at a January fundraising event – a cover heard ’round the world, thanks to the power of YouTube. However, music rights management company BMG isn’t exactly pleased with the viral footage of Obama’s “Let’s Stay Together,” a song they own.

BMG issued takedowns of online video footage of Obama’s cover on copyright grounds earlier this week. Unofficial video sources, such as YouTube users, have been pulled with the message: “This video contains content from BMG_Rights_Management and TV9, one or more of whom have blocked it in your country on copyright grounds.” (Note: There are no legal issues involving the cover itself, simply the unofficial video footage of it.)

Interestingly enough, Mitt Romney was the catalyst for the viral takedown, six months after Obama crooned “Let’s Stay Together.” The Republican presidential candidate was the first to hear from BMG, when the organization called him out for using the Obama clip in a campaign advertisement Monday (July 17). However, the company went straight to the source yesterday (July 18), exercising fairness in its copyright crusade. Some sources speculate the move was in order to avoid any accusations that their claim was politically motivated.

Among YouTube accounts affected by the takedown are many news organizations. Press coverage can fall into the category of “fair use,” which exempts the content from copyright law, however BMG is challenging any fair use claims in the name of piracy.
The Associated Press, for example, had previously hosted the video on its YouTube channel, but took it down of its own accord before BMG could intervene. However, TMZ’s video of Obama getting soulful remains untouched on YouTube.

Obama’s rendition is a candid nine seconds of Al Green’s soul classic, performed by Mr. President during a January fundraising event attended by the Reverend Green himself. The footage is reportedly still available on YouTube outside the U.S. Additionally, Techdirt points out that a myriad of other Al Green covers remain online, while Obama seems to be BMG’s sole target.

BMG did not immediately return CBS Local’s request for comment.

– Jillian Mapes & Nee-Sa Lossing, CBS Local


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