Pawlenty Ad: Yes, We Need a Miracle

At the 1980 Winter Olympics, a scrappy squad of college-aged American hockey players did the unthinkable: defeated a fierce, battle-tested squad of Soviet hockey super-soldiers, en route to winning the gold medal. It was a clasic underdog story, dramatized in the pretty-okay Kurt Russell movie, Miracle.

Hockey-loving, beer-guzzling Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty loves the story too. So much so that his campaign spliced in footage from the game in his latest campaign ad:

In the ad, Pawlenty reminds Americans that to overcome the impossible, “you fight, you bleed, you prevail,” and that the US is “down…but not out.” And he draws a none-too-subtle parallel between the country’s fortunes, and those of his growing-less-relevant-by-the-poll presidential campaign.

Meanwhile, ABC—which broadcast the historic game—isn’t pleased, The Des Moines Register reports:

ABC will soon be sending the Pawlenty campaign a cease-and-desist letter because the Republican presidential hopeful not only used the network’s copyrighted footage but included a soundbite of Al Michaels’ famous line, “Do you believe in miracles?”

“It’s a violation of our copyright and exclusive proprietary rights,” Louise Argianas, director of rights and clearances for ABC Sports, told the Register.

Argianas added that because Pawlenty’s 30-second spot used Michaels’ voice, she would also have to notify the announcer’s agent. The ad began airing Wednesday in Iowa.

Pawlenty’s campaign says the ad complies with fair use rules. But fair use is a tricky concept, one that the US Copyright Office’s own statutes define in pretty murky terms.

Even if Pawlenty loses the fight with ABC, at least his ad embraces reality: it could, in fact, take a miracle to get him to the top of the GOP ticket.