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Rolling Stones Tell Trump to Stop Using Their Songs

The Rolling Stones have sent a cease and desist letter to Donald Trump, telling him to stop using their music. They released a statement to the media saying they never gave him permission.

I suggested such a letter two weeks ago when I heard the notes of "Start Me Up" at the end of Trump's victory speech in South Carolina.

I doubt the Stones would let him use their music. They should send a "cease and desist order" telling him they have no sympathy for the devil.

Time Magazine explains why this issue seems to be happening more frequently. [More...]

Example: Jackson Browne sued John McCain and the RNC (they settled out of court.)

Rolling Stone had this article listing 34 artists who fought politicians over the use of their songs. John Mellencamp was one of them.

McCain used the tunes at rallies to underscore his "Country First" message. Mellencamp - who has called himself "as left-wing as you can get" and performed at a John Edwards rally during the 2008 Democratic primaries - asked that the presidential hopeful cease and desist. The rocker also asked Bush to stop using "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A." in 2000, and told Salon that he discouraged Reagan from using "Pink Houses" as his campaign song in 1984 when reps reached out.

Result: Four days after Mellencamp's request was made, McCain's campaign announced that it would no longer play either "Our Country" or "Pink Houses" at events.

According to the ASCAP (Using Music in Political Campaigns: What you Should Know), the possible legal actions (notwithstanding a license) include:

Q: If the campaign events are properly licensed, can the campaign still be criticized or even sued by an artist for playing his or her song at an event?

A: Yes. If an artist does not want his or her music to be associated with the campaign, he or she may be able to take legal action even if the campaign has the appropriate copyright licenses. While the campaign would be in compliance with copyright law, it could potentially be in violation of other laws. Specifically, the campaign could be liable under any of the following claims:

(1) "Right of Publicity", which in many states provides image protection for famous people or artists.

(2) The "Lanham Act", which covers the confusion or dilution of a trademark (such as a band or artist name) through its unauthorized use.

(3) "False Endorsement" where use of the artist's identifying work implies that the artist supports a product or candidate.

As a general rule, a campaign should be aware that, in most cases, the more closely a song is tied to the "image" or message of the campaign, the more likely it is that the recording artist or songwriter of the song could object to the song's usage in the campaign.

Q: How can the campaign protect itself against these other claims?

A: If a campaign wants to eliminate any of these claims, particularly if the campaign wants to use a song as its theme, they should contact the management for the artists and/or songwriters of the songs in question and obtain their permission. In addition to permission from management, a separate negotiated license maybe required by the publisher of the composition , and if used, the record label that controls the master recording.

And from Campaign Music and Fair Use: What Are the Rules, published by Law Street (a legal news site written for and by millennials):

Even if the proper licenses are granted by publishers and record labels, the performing groups themselves may be entitled to protections under the right of publicity and the Lanham Act, meaning their permission is essentially required as well.

In short: if you want to use a song to promote your campaign, talk to the song's artist, and his or her record label first.

Prediction: Trump will stop using the Stones' music. Why? He needs to spend his time on more important things, like finding funding for the general election. He announced yesterday he will not self-fund his campaign in the general election as he did in the primaries.

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