The legendary musician claims that Trump lacked a license to play “Rockin ‘in the Free World” and “Devil’s Sidewalk” at a campaign rally in Tulsa.
Neil Young to Donald Trump: Not so fast rocking ‘in the free world. On Tuesday, the legendary musician filed a lawsuit against Trump’s campaign to play his songs at campaign rallies.
“This complaint is not intended to infringe upon the rights and opinions of American citizens, who are free to support the candidate’s choice,” the complaint, filed in New York federal court. “But the plaintiff in good conscience cannot allow his music to be used as a theme song for a divisive, un-American campaign of ignorance and hatred.”
Young claims that Trump’s campaign does not have a license to perform the compositions in public Rockin ‘in the Free World and Devil’s Sidewalks. The musician notes that Trump has used his music for several years back to the last campaign and played both songs at his rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 20.
Young has been considering suing Trump since his first presidential campaign, but he had a heart attack after being told earlier that the campaign sites had received public performance licenses from ASCAP and BMI.
But as more and more musicians opposed politicians using their music, these performance organizations began allowing songwriters to exclude their music for political use. Now ASCAP and BMI are warning candidates that a performance license may not cover all the requirements of a musician. Whether this is allowed under the ASCAP and BMI Consent Regulations – the long-standing rules for music licenses derived from a DOJ antitrust suit in the 1940s – is a subject that has not yet been explored in court.
Young is now willing to test the notion that Trump is infringing copyright and demands that Trump be enjoyed playing his songs further. Young, represented by Robert Besser, also claims statutory damages.
Copyright cases against politicians are often decided before a verdict, as the legal process is slow, and the end of the campaign season obliterates the incentives for the parties to play a case. As a result, although politicians have found limited success in the courtroom, there is still a lot of ambiguity about copyright in the political context.