U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has agreed to pay $55,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by Seattle music-licensing firm Audiosocket, just as some Republican lawmakers are sizing him up for a potential Supreme Court nomination.
In May, Audiosocket sued the Cruz for President campaign and the Madison McQueen advertising company for copyright infringement and breach of a licensing agreement in U.S. District Court in Seattle. According to the complaint, Cruz’s team used two songs licensed by Audiosocket for political ads, violating the license agreement. Audiosocket says the campaign and ad agency did not disclose plans to use the music for political purposes.
The ads were visible on Cruz’s campaign website and YouTube channel, according to the complaint. One commercial also aired on Fox Business News, violating Audiosocket’s cable television restrictions.
“I think it put a really positive and necessary light on the rampant nature of copyright infringement,” Audiosocket CEO Brent McCrossen said of the settlement. “If presidential candidates are doing it in such an egregious manner, it’s no surprise that other institutions are doing it as well. The case was incredibly damning.”
Audiosocket caught the infringement using LicenseID, software the company developed to fight “rampant” copyright infringement and illegal use of intellectual property. LicenseID attaches a watermark to music with details about the license agreement used to download it. Audiosocket developed LicenseID in late 2014 and spun it out as its own product, under the name Lidcore, in January.
McCrossen believes LicenseID helped Audiosocket swiftly settle the case where other copyright suits have languished in court for years.
“The technology was so incredibly damning as evidence, in and of itself, that this use was infringing and we drove this thing to a settlement in an incredibly expedient manner,” he said.
A song called “Lens,” written by Sarah Schachner, was used in a commercial entitled “Victories.” Another ad, called “Best to Come,” used the song “Fear of Complacency” by Brad Couture. Both artists were named in the lawsuit Audiosocket brought.
“I’m very pleased that we were able to use the license ID technology to identify the copyright infringement, prove the validity of that invention, and help our artists receive fair remuneration for their work,” said McCrossen.
In addition to damages, the Cruz for President campaign and Madison McQueen were required to issue a public apology:
Madison McQueen and Cruz for President value intellectual property and copyrights and understand those rights are central to how writers, artists, coders, designers, and musicians maintain their livelihood; those rights are central to determining how they are fairly paid for the use of their work.
The campaign and production company apologize for unintentionally infringing upon the intellectual property rights of Sarah Schachner and Brad Couture and Madison McQueen apologizes for unintentionally breaching Audiosocket’s license agreement.
Cruz suspended his bid for president shortly before Audiosocket brought the lawsuit. The primary campaign pitted him against president-elect Donald Trump in bitter rivalry but some conservative leaders are now considering a Cruz appointment in Trump’s presidency.
GeekWire reached out to Senator Cruz’s office and will update this story if we hear back.