Regular listeners who tuned into white nationalist group Stormfront’s radio show on September 6 may have noticed something was missing: the theme song. In its place was an announcement-slash-justification from host Patrick Slattery, who explained to his listeners that the song they’d kept in heavy rotation could no longer be used by Stormfront because “these Jews are trying to crack down on us every way they can.”
Stormfront had been enjoying the use of Johnny Cash’s recording of the Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne ode to persistence, “I Won’t Back Down,” as the theme song to its radio program without permission. But on September 5, the organization was hit with a cease-and-desist letter from Universal Music Group and American Recordings (which owns the Cash recording), demanding they stop using the hit as their theme, NPR reports.
The letter was addressed to Don Black, Stormfront’s founder and a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, and Rense Radio Network. The former made headlines last year when his son, Derek, publicly disavowed the teachings of the white supremacist movement; the latter is a bit of a misnomer since, according to NPR, the Rense Radio Network “does not appear to have any radio broadcast facilities or capacities; its content is at this time apparently distributed via personal websites and various YouTube channels.”
The letter, obtained by NPR, asserts that Stormfront Radio is “unlawfully exploiting” Cash’s recording, which was also reportedly used in “hundreds of archived and downloadable copies” of previously aired Stormfront shows.
During that September 6 broadcast, Don Black insisted he thought Stormfront’s playing of the Cash song was protected under fair use provisions. (Doubtful: Fair use depends on a “transformative” purpose, like parody, commentary, or criticism.) Slattery, again, chalked up the incident to the interference of “these Jews.” He went on, “Who else is going to go after our theme music, really? The music industry is an industry they [Jewish people] have been dominating since Tin Pan Alley … they dominate the music industry today, that’s for sure.”
This isn’t the first time the Cash estate has stepped in to prevent the use of Johnny’s music, name, and likeness from being associated with white supremacists. After a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi wore a Johnny Cash t-shirt during the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Cash’s children posted a message on Facebook denouncing white nationalism and saying they were “sickened” to see their late father’s name linked with bigotry and hatred. It read, in part:
Johnny Cash was a man whose heart beat with the rhythm of love and social justice… He would be horrified at even a casual use of his name or image for an idea or a cause founded in persecution and hatred. The white supremacists and neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville are poison in our society, and an insult to every American hero who wore a uniform to fight the Nazis in WWII…
To any who claim supremacy over other human beings, to any who believe in racial or religious hierarchy: we are not you. Our father, as a person, icon, or symbol, is not you. We ask that the Cash name be kept far away from destructive and hateful ideology.
The cease-and-desist comes on the heels of Stormfront’s eviction from the mainstream internet — both Google and GoDaddy banned the site last month — not an insignificant issue as, again, the Rense Radio Network has no broadcast channels of its own.