Cease and desist? Maybe not

Yesterday, the Des Moines Register reported that ABC Sports may send Gov. Tim Pawlenty a cease-and-desist letter for using TV footage of the USA hockey team’s unexpected defeat of the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics in his latest political ad, “The American Comeback.”

The Iowa paper quoted ABC Sports director of rights and clearances, Louise Argianas, as saying the use of the footages was “a violation of our copyright and exclusive proprietary rights.”

But is appears that officials at ESPN, which oversees ABC Sports, are hedging a bit. Here’s the organization’s latest statement:

“Neither ABC nor ESPN has asked the Pawlenty campaign to remove any footage from their video, although neither ABC nor ESPN licensed the video to them or authorized its use.”

Pawlenty spokesman Alex Conant said that the ad was thoroughly vetted by the former governor’s lawyers.

“All of our campaign television advertising is carefully reviewed by the campaign’s lawyers to ensure compliance with the copyright laws, the federal election laws, and other legal provisions,” Conant wrote in an email. “The campaign’s ‘Miracle on Ice’ advertisement was carefully reviewed for legal compliance and we believe fully complies with the ‘fair use’ doctrine. We respect ABC’s concern and look forward to responding to their inquiry.”

The new TV spot features shots of Pawlenty, a long-time hockey player, in an ice rink, interspersed with footage from the epic 1980 hockey game.

“Out here, you’re tested,” Pawlenty says in the ad. “You face an opponent the experts say can’t be beat. You fight, you bleed, you prevail.”

Like the USA hockey team’s early performance in the rink, Pawlenty hasn’t been doing so well in polls, and the ad is likely meant to sway critics who say he doesn’t have what it takes to win the Republican presidential nomination.

Here’s the TV spot.

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