No, The Trump Campaign Is Not “Stealing” Neil Young’s Songs

Despite what you may have read, Neil Young is being a jerk.  This month, the singer sued the Trump campaign over its use of “Rockin’ in the Free World” and  “Devil’s Sidewalk,” both of which were played at a Trump  rally in  June. In his suit, the musician accused the campaign of copyright infringement for playing the tracks without a license, and asked for the campaign to be ordered to stop using them, as well as for statutory damages.

It’s a dishonest suit. The real reason for it is also in the complaint, in which he says Young “cannot allow his music to be used as a ‘theme song’ for a divisive, un-American campaign of ignorance and hate.”

Of course, it is the party Young’s sympathies presumably  lie with that have been inflicting hate and ignorance on the U.S., but never mind.

Young was on sounder legal and ethical ground in 2018, when he wrote that he had  no legal recourse to stop Trump from using his music, writing on his website, “Legally, he has the right to, however it goes against my wishes.”

Well too damn bad, Neil. You sold your right to have your wishes obeyed in such matters. You’re just virtue-signaling, and I hope the Trump Campaign counter-sues.

Campaigns purchase the same right to play songs that radio stations, shopping malls  or concert halls do by paying for blanket licensing deals with licensing companies like ASCAP and BMI. They act as agents of artists to sell the public performance rights for millions of songs on their behalf, including Neil Young, in exchange for a fee. Campaigns purchase special licenses , allowing them to use songs at venues around the country.  The licensing organizations’ consent decrees with the Justice Department preserve a fair marketplace by requiring them to offer their catalogs of songs to any “similarly situated” party that wants to use the music. Continue reading