Neil Young filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign on Tuesday over the unauthorized use of Rockin in the Free World and Devil’s Sidewalk.
“This complaint is not intended to disrespect the rights and opinions of American citizens, who are free to support the candidate of their choosing,” the lawsuit stated. “However, Plaintiff in good conscience cannot allow his music to be used as a ‘theme song’ for a divisive, un-American campaign of ignorance and hate.”
Young’s legal team contends that Trump’s campaign played both songs at the Tulsa rally in June, but did not have a license or his authorization to use them at any political event.
A spokesperson for the Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
When Trump announced his bid for the presidency in June, 2015, Young objected to his use of Rockin in the Free World. The campaign, though, said that it obtained a license through ASCAP. Since then, the performing rights organization has a means for artists to request that their works not be used for political use. Young claims that Trump’s campaign has “willfully ignored” his demand to not play the songs.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction to prevent the campaign from playing the music, as well as statutory damages between $750 and $150,000 for each infringement. Read the claim here.
Young is only the latest among a number of musicians to speak out against Trump campaign use of their works. The Rolling Stones have objected to the use of their music, which includes a song that has become a mainstay after Trump speaks at events, You Can’t Always Get What You Want. In June, BMI warned that the campaign’s use of the song would be a breach of its licensing agreement.
The lawsuit will face challenges. Larry Iser, partner at Kinsella, Weitzman, Iser, Kump & Aldisert, said via email that while he sides with Young, it will be “hugely expensive” for Young to “spar in court with the deep pocketed Trump campaign.” He also said that there was a “huge factual issue” of whether ASCAP did exclude Young’s song from the Trump campaign license. He also said that there also is the issue of whether ASCAP’s antitrust consent decree with the Justice Department, which dates back almost 80 years, allows for such an exclusion.
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