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Can Neil Young Block Trump From Using His Songs? It’s Complicated

  • August 12, 2020

On Election Day in 2018, Neil Young posted a frustrated statement about President Trump.

Three years earlier, Mr. Trump had used Mr. Young’s song “Rockin’ in the Free World” — a protest against injustice — when announcing his campaign, drawing Mr. Young’s ire. With the divisive midterms underway, Mr. Young once again complained, yet said he had no legal recourse to stop Mr. Trump from using his music.

“Legally, he has the right to,” Mr. Young wrote on his website, “however it goes against my wishes.”

Last week, Mr. Young finally sued Mr. Trump’s campaign over the use of “Rockin’ in the Free World” and another song, “Devil’s Sidewalk,” both of which were played at Mr. Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Okla., 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.

Mr. Young’s complaint said he “in good conscience cannot allow his music to be used as a ‘theme song’ for a divisive, un-American campaign of ignorance and hate.”

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