December 1, 2023

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Tom Petty Estate Issues Cease and Desist to Kari Lake Over “I Won’t Back Down”

The estate of Tom Petty has issued a cease and desist to Republican Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who recently lost the race to Democrat Katie Hobbs. In a letter obtained by Pitchfork, Petty’s publisher Wixen Music Publishing condemns Lake’s use of the song “I Won’t Back Down” in a video the politician posted to her social media accounts earlier this week, as reported by Rolling Stone and Billboard (it now appears that Lake’s post has been deleted). Lake is currently refusing to concede the governor’s race despite Hobbs’ victory.

“It has come to Wixen’s and the Claimants’ attention that you and Kari Lake for Arizona are currently broadcasting, exhibiting, distributing, and otherwise exploiting the Composition in synchronization with an advertisement video made in connection with your bid to contest the results of the 2022 election for governor of Arizona (‘Unauthorized Video’) without Wixen’s and the Claimants’ approval,” the cease and desist letter reads. It continues:

Furthermore, the use of the Composition in connection with your candidacy conveys the false implication that the Claimants endorse or are otherwise associated with you and/or your candidacy. This implicit endorsement is revolting to the Claimants and gives rise to claims under the Lanham Act and the common law and statutes of various state jurisdictions which recognize postmortem rights of publicity. The combination of copyright and rights of publicity violations may have damaged both the value of the Composition and the legacy of Tom Petty and his successors’ rights under the Lanham Act and other applicable laws if members of the public mistakenly believe that Tom Petty had any association with you.

To be clear Ms. Lake, Tom Petty was enraged by any sort of injustice. Without question he would have been outraged by your failed campaign for Governor, which was filled with distortions, lies, smears, promoting hate, and attempting to undermine our democracy. Using his music to promote yourself and your despicable cause is revolting and antithetical to everything that Tom and his music stand for and mean to millions of people.

Tom sang “I Won’t Back Down” at America: A Tribute to Heroes benefit concert for victims of the 9/11 attack. Not backing down to hatred, violence, and an attack on our democracy. The opposite of what you stand for. Using this song to promote your warped values is not only illegal as outlined above but an insult to Tom’s memory, his lyrics and music, and the tens of millions of fans who cherish his legacy.

Wixen added that any further use of the song could result in up to $150,000 per infringement. The publishing company also called for Lake’s campaign to confirm it has received the cease and desist letter by next week, and to provide Wixen with any further uses of the song from her campaign.

Prior to sending a formal cease and desist letter, Petty’s estate posted a statement on Twitter decrying Lake’s use of the song. Back in 2020, Petty’s estate issued a cease and desist to Donald Trump’s presidential reelection campaign for its use of “I Won’t Back Down” at a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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