By John Tehranian, the Irwin R. Buchalter Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School and the Biederman Entertainment and Media Law Institute in Los Angeles, California, and a founding partner of One LLP.
Shortly after taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama announced that he would end the use of Guantanamo Bay as a detention camp for enemy combatants in the war on terrorism. Although it appears increasingly unlikely that the President will achieve this goal any time in the near future, the eventual closing of the facility would potentially do away with a number of controversial policies. Of those practices, one of the more unusual was the military’s arguably infringing use of music on the prisoners. The soundtrack to Guantanamo Bay, it turns out, was replete with copyrighted songs meant to addle and unnerve, especially on repeat. And, apparently, the government lacked an appropriate license to publicly perform these songs.
As a preliminary matter, the playlist at Guantanamo — at least during the Bush years — was, according to press reports, filled with curious choices. For example, it included Fuck Your God — a particularly bizarre selection considering the Bush Administration’s religiosity and the federal government’s position, through the FCC, on the use of indecent language in other contexts. Guantanamo Bay’s Top Ten List — the songs most frequently played to interrogate prisoners — featured a perverse smorgasbord of heavy metal, children’s music, and (seemingly) patriotic stadium rock: