It’s an election year, which means left-leaning musical acts are mad at Republicans—specifically Donald Trump—for playing their cool songs at dork-ass rallies without permission. It has happened many times in the history of political rallies, going back to Caveman Og playing “Born In The USA” before making a speech about Caveman Blorg’s bad economic policies, so at this point we notice them about as often as we notice… clouds. Slightly annoying clouds that don’t really mean anything.
Now, though, possibly because he has nothing better to do with this pandemic going on, Neil Young has decided to say “fuck it” and actually press the issue. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Young has filed a copyright infringement suit against Trump’s campaign for playing “Rockin’ In The Free World” and “Devil’s Sidewalk” at his recent coronavirus party in Tulsa, saying he specifically objects to his music being used as a “theme song” by a “divisive, un-American campaign of ignorance and hate.” THR says Young considered suing Trump for using his music in 2016, but decided against it because it’s apparently common for campaign venues to preemptively get public performance licenses from ASCAP and BMI—meaning Trump could’ve indirectly had Young’s permission to use his songs at rallies anyway.
Apparently, though, ASCAP and BMI are starting to allow artists to bar their music from being used for political purposes, so there’s a chance that the Trump campaign having a public performance license wouldn’t even hold up in front of a judge. Nobody has really addressed that in court yet, though, because these cases usually get settled quickly (since it’s in nobody’s best interest to drag a suit like this out past campaign season). There are a few possibilities for how this will play out, then: Trump could settle just to shut Neil Young up, Trump could have to go to court against New Young, or Trump could just stall for as long as possible until nobody cares about what happens. That’s usually how he gets out of lawsuits, but most of his legal opponents don’t have the resources or stubborn focus on getting the moral victory that Neil Young has.
Remember how long he fought against Apple to create a better platform for digital music, and when it failed to take off multiple times he just put high-quality versions of his own music on his website? Apple is way more intimidating than Donald Trump (an apple is way more intimidating than Donald Trump), so he should have no reason to be scared here.