Heller’s ‘Big Spender’ ad challenged
Republican Rep. Dean Heller’s use of the Broadway classic “Big Spender” in Nevada radio and television ads criticizing his Democratic opponent, Jill Derby, has drawn a lawsuit threat from the widow of the music’s composer, Cy Coleman.
Shelby Coleman said the Cy Coleman Estate turned down a request last month to use “Big Spender” as background music in the ads critical of travel expenses by Derby during her 18 years as a state university-college system regent, but the ads were produced anyway.
In a letter to the Derby campaign, Shelby Coleman said she was “appalled” by the decision by Weeks & Co. LLP of Austin, Tex., to produce the ads after being advised not to use the music, from the 1966 musical “Sweet Charity.”
Coleman added the estate “will pursue all remedies under the copyright law of the United States to protect our copyright from this unlawful use.”
Heller spokesman Stewart Bybee said the ad is “entirely lawful and its content is protected as political speech and by the ‘fair use’ doctrine of copyright law.”
“The song is an obvious parody,” Bybee said. “It’s a clear spoof on the original, which presents no rational likelihood that any reasonable person would mistake it for the original song or lyrics.”
Derby spokeswoman Kristen Cullen questioned why a request to use the music was made in the first place if there was no problem in using it without permission. She also said the ad incorrectly says Derby had nearly $100,000 in travel expenses. She said that $100,000 is nearly double what expense records show.
Cullen also said the travel budget in the Nevada secretary of state’s office, when Heller held that post, was nearly $500,000, adding, “Who’s the big spender?”