Careful what you YouTube: Governor Christie hears from The Rock’s lawyers

In a parody YouTube video, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie made his case for pension reform:

All well and good.  However, this is the second version of the video.  The first one featured clips of Dwayne Johnson, aka “The Rock.”  However, that version didn’t sit well with The Rock’s lawyers:

The video was yanked after only a few hours because Johnson’s attorneys called to complain, the governor’s office acknowledged.

The Governor’s office mocked the error on their own Twitter account:

As noted by the Star-Ledger, the entire video is related to a massive pension crisis that the state of New Jersey is facing:

In 2010, Christie signed a deal with Democrats to revise the system, making public workers pay more and promising the state would continue to increase payments.

But faced with a $1.7 billion state budget shortfall, Christie chose to reduce pension payments to cover the gap, rejecting an alternative plan by Democrats to raise taxes on millionaires and businesses.

Governor Christie is not, by any stretch, the first elected official to run afoul of using a celebrities’ property or image in the course of their campaigning and advocacy. Among other objectors:

  • Jackson Browne, who sued Senator John McCain and the Ohio Republican Party in 2008 for the use of the song Running on Empty.
  • David Byrne of The Talking Heads, who sued Florida Governor Charlie Crist for using Road to Nowhere in an attack ad against Marco Rubio.
  • Tom Petty, who wrote a letter to Congresswonan Michelle Bachmann, asking her to stop using American Girl.
  • Heart, who sent a formal complaint to former Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin about her use of Barracuda.

With such a rich history of artist objections, Christie’s team should have seen this coming and should have sought permission from The Rock before using his image in one of their issue ads, something they clearly did not do.  Perhaps they thought that The Rock wouldn’t mind, as he is a registered Republican.

Nonetheless, there are two lessons here for any elected official.  First, never assume that someone’s image or creative work can be co-opted without permission.  I suspect that’s the error that Governor Christie’s team made here.  Second, never assume a default level of support.  In this age, it is easy to accidentally broadcast someone else’s support of an issue, implied or explicit, when no such evidence exists.  That also certainly played a part in this situation.

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