Do not use pop music for your campaign jingles!

"This is Philippine political communication—unimaginative, boring, and dull."


Just don't.

Like most wage-earners, I sleep in on weekend mornings. Imagine my irritation at being jerked awake the past few weeks by the loud blaring of campaign jingles outside my window in the early hours.   

What’s more annoying is that these jingles are cribbed from popular music—the Voltes V theme, Hotdog’s ‘Bongga Ka ‘Day,’  Lou Bega’s ‘Mambo No. 5,’ and Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You,” among others I’ve heard here in Makati. ‘Bongga Ka ‘Day,” are you serious? Is nothing sacred?

Josephine Santiago, director-general of the Intellectual Property Office, said on a dzMM radio show recently that under copyright law, politicians may not use someone else’s music indiscriminately and substituting their own campaign-related lyrics.

Speaking in Tagalog, she said “There is a need to ask permission to use someone else’s composition, lyrics, or sounds [melody]. If we do not know who the composer or lyricist is, we can ask the Filipino Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers to coordinate for us.”

She added that it is also not allowed to use someone else’ music, without permission, in the playlist at a campaign sortie, miting de avance, or other election-related activity. “They need to get permission to use the music, both local and foreign,” she said, saying that Filscap also coordinates with representatives of foreign musicians.

Can the composer or lyricist complain if their music was used in such a manner? “Yes,” said Santiago. “Only the owner or holder of a copyright can use the music or give permission for it to be used by others.” Works such as music are “creations of the mind, pinaghirapan ng mga gumawa nito. Respeto ang aming adbokasiya,” she said.  

Santiago agreed that using music and other intellectual properties such as superhero images and so on without permission is a kind of theft. 

Using popular music during election campaigns is a tactic that taps into the audience’s frames of reference—their knowledge of the song and associations with it, memories, links to the past. 

This is an attempt to influence the audience’s emotion and attitudes by inducing ‘associative meaning,’ in line with the semantic analysis of Geoffrey Leech, in particular the sub-type ‘affective meaning,’ related to personal feelings or attitudes.

“Music is one of the critical elements of any political ad, because it instantly establishes the tone of the video,” says “Aim for music that creates emotional response,” whether positive or negative, depending on the message.

They warn that “using a track by a popular recording artist may get your soundtrack the instant recognition but may introduce the licensing and performance royalties liability.” Get licenses for the music you want to use, use royalty-free music, or commission an original composition. 

All this will fall on deaf ears, because this is not the first election that pop music has been used for candidate’s ads. You’d think that by now candidates and campaign teams would have learned about copyright. 

But the problem is that artists do not complain about the unauthorized use of their work. Foreign artists wouldn’t know, and local ones seem to think that complaining would take more and time and resources than they’d care to spend on such a matter. 

Many of the candidates are lawyers and all have lawyers on their team. They know they’re infringing copyright but they don’t care, knowing that no one will complain, much less bring suit. That’s impunity for you.

And if a candidate shows this kind of disrespect towards artists and flouts the law, then how can they treat ordinary folk any better? And people who copy or imitate don’t have any originality or creativity. Plagiarism is intellectual dishonesty. How then are they going to run their bailiwicks—in the same old style, nothing new, nothing changed?

It’s disheartening and off-putting. Cribbing pop music for a political jingle is a sleazy move, not classy at all. It’s manipulative when it should be persuasive. But this is Philippine political communication—unimaginative, boring, and dull. 

Y’all stop using the Voltes V theme for your political jingles, dammit. I grew up watching that show. Don’t ruin it. /FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO

Topics: Jenny Ortuoste , campaign jingles , Josephine Santiago , Intellectual Property Office , Plagiarism
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