Neil Young sues Donald Trump's campaign for using his songs

Jonathan Stempel
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Singer/songwriter Neil Young performs during a concert honoring singer/songwriter Willie Nelson, recipient of the Library of Congress' Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Singer/songwriter Neil Young performs during a concert honoring singer/songwriter Willie Nelson, recipient of the Library of Congress' Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, in Washington

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Neil Young sued U.S. President Donald Trump's re-election campaign on Tuesday, accusing it of copyright infringement for playing the rocker's songs without permission.

In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Young objected to the playing of "Rockin' in the Free World" and "Devil's Sidewalk" numerous times at rallies and political events, including a June 20 rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Young said he has complained about Trump's use of his songs since 2015, and that the campaign has "willfully" ignored him despite lacking a license. He had also objected when Trump played his music while visiting Mount Rushmore on July 3.

"This complaint is not intended to disrespect the rights and opinions of American citizens, who are free to support the candidate of their choosing," Young's lawyers said in the complaint. "However, 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."

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Young is seeking damages of up to $150,000 per infringement.

Born in Canada and now also a U.S. citizen, Young, 74, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist in 1995, and as part of Buffalo Springfield in 1997.

It is common for musicians to oppose politicians' alleged unauthorized use or invocation of their music.

In a prominent early case, Bruce Springsteen objected in 1984, soon after the release of his blockbuster album "Born in the U.S.A.," when then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan invoked his name during his re-election campaign.

Last month, dozens of artists including Aerosmith, Rosanne Cash, Green Day, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Elton John, Linkin Park, Lorde, Pearl Jam and Sia joined an open letter calling on politicians to obtain permission before playing their music at campaign and political events.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Additional reporting by Michael Martina in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)