Canadian-American singer, Neil Young, has sued US President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign – for using his music.
In the copyright infringement suit, it is stated that the plaintiff (Young) “in good conscience cannot allow his music to be used as a ‘theme song’ for a divisive, un-American campaign of ignorance and hate.”
Trump’s re-election campaign had played two songs of Young’s – Rockin’ in the Free World and Devil’s Sidwalk at a rally at Tulsa, Oklahoma, last month.
“Imagine what it feels like to hear Rockin’ in the Free World after this President speaks, like it is his theme song. I did not write it for that,” Young had written in an earlier complaint on July 3 on the “Neil Young Archives” website.
Trump’s campaign is yet to respond to Young’s lawsuit, which is seeking $150,000 in damages for each infringement.
Young first objected to the use of his tunes in 2015 during Trump’s first shot at the presidency. At the time, Trump’s campaign ended up inking licensing agreements with the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), to use pop songs at events.
Read more: ‘Hail to the Thief’: Music in political campaigns
The open letter argued that the unauthorized use of their songs in political contexts without permission could confuse and disappoint fans and even “undermine an artists’ long-term income.”
The family of late rock musician Tom Petty has already issued a cease-and-desist order against Trump’s campaign after the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers song I Won’t Back Down was played at the rally in Tulsa.
“Trump was in no way authorized to use this song to further a campaign that leaves too many Americans and common sense behind… Tom Petty would never want a song of his to be used in a campaign of hate. He liked to bring people together,” his family said in a statement.
While still alive, Petty had explicitly objected to Republican George W. Bush using the exact same tune in the 2000 campaign.
George Washington was the first presidential candidate to use a specific song in his election campaign. “God Save Great Washington” is considered the personal anthem of the first President of the United States. The melody of the British anthem “God Save The King” was given new words without further ado, the president’s name replacing the word “king.”
Sammy Cahn wrote new lyrics to Frank Sinatra’s Oscar-winning 1959 hit “High Hopes” for the Kennedy election campaign in 1960. It became the official campaign tune.
The song chosen for Reagan’s 1984 re-election campaign may be the biggest mistake in the history of campaign songs. “Born in the U.S.A.” is not as patriotic as one might think. In the song, Bruce Springsteen takes a critical stance on the Vietnam War and criticizes the US government for its treatment of war veterans.
It’s believed that the choice of the 1977 hit “Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)” was a carefully calculated. That song had been especially popular with young Americans at the time, and 15 years later, Fleetwood Mac fans were middle-aged voters — a generation with a particularly high voter turnout.
Protesting against the use of his song at campaign rallies, Tom Petty prohibited George W. Bush from using it in 2000. Twenty years later, President Donald J. Trump had the very same song played at a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma — and the late musician’s family sent a cease-and-desist letter.
“Signed, Sealed, Delivered” by Stevie Wonder was regularly played during Barack Obama’s 2008 election campaign. The message to his voters was “I am yours!” Many pop greats supported Obama, including Bruce Springsteen, Beyoncé and Katy Perry. Rapper and producer will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas produced the track “Yes We Can” in his honor.
The Rolling Stones have also threatened to sue Trump’s re-election campaign after their hit classic You Can’t Always Get What You Want was played at the Tulsa rally. “The BMI have notified the Trump campaign on behalf of the Stones that the unauthorized use of their songs will constitute a breach of its licensing agreement”, the band said.
Legal experts have in the past questioned whether such objections would be likely to stand up in court, however, arguing that people would not necessarily infer that a musician supported a politician simply because one of their songs was played at a rally.