Neil Young Sues Trump Campaign For Using ‘Rockin’ In The Free World’ Without Permission

on September 27, 2014 in Neligh, Nebraska.
NELIGH, NE - SEPTEMBER 27: Neil Young performs on stage during the Harvest The Hope concert on the Tanderup Farm on September 27, 2014 in Neligh, Nebraska. (Photo by Gary Miller/WireImage,)
August 4, 2020 4:55 p.m.

Neil Young sued the Trump campaign on Tuesday for allegedly using his songs without permission at campaign rallies.

In a legal filing posted to his website, Young claimed that the Trump campaign used his music at Trump’s recent rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma — as well as at “numerous” other rallies and political events — without a license to do so.

The campaign played Young’s songs “Rockin’ in the Free World” and “Devil’s Sidewalk” at the Tulsa rally and at other events, Young said.

“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 wrote.

This is hardly Young’s first objection to Trump using his music: Rolling Stone noted that the performer raised similar objections in 2018 and early last month — just without taking things to court.

Young noted in the six-page copyright infringement filing that the Trump campaign first played “Rockin’ in the Free World” when Trump announced his bid for the presidency on June 16, 2015.

At the time, Young’s manager Elliot Roberts told Mother Jones, “Donald Trump’s use of “Rockin’ in the Free World” was not authorized. Mr. Young is a longtime supporter of Bernie Sanders.”

But a year later, The Hollywood Reporter noted, Young acknowledged that the campaign had in fact obtained a license for the event. Young alleged Tuesday that the campaign’s actions then were an acknowledgement “that it knew a license was required.”

Since then, Young alleged, the campaign had repeatedly used his music without permssion — despite knowing that they needed a license to do so. Young asked the court to enjoin the campaign from publicly performing his music and to order the campaign to pay for the alleged infringements.

Young’s attorney Ivan Saperstein told TPM Tuesday that the suit had been filed in the Southern District of New York. Saperstein declined to comment further, and the Trump campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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