Neil Young Tells Donald Trump to Stop Using ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’
When Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president yesterday (June 16), he accompanied his message with music from one of rock's most politically outspoken artists. Trump used Neil Young's "Keep on Rockin' in the Free World" during the campaign announcement in New York – an event in which he criticized Obamacare and U.S. foreign policy and bragged about his wealth.
Predictably, Young, who dedicates much of his time to liberal political causes (his forthcoming album, The Monsanto Years, is largely a lefty commentary on American agricultural policy) wasn't happy. A spokesperson said, "Donald Trump was not authorized to use 'Rockin' in the Free World' in his presidential candidacy announcement. Neil Young, a Canadian citizen, is a supporter of Bernie Sanders for President of the United States of America."
Trump responded that he had indeed worked with ASCAP – one of two major music rights organizations – to secure a license to play the song and that he loves Young regardless of their political differences. A spokesperson for Trump said, "Mr. Trump is a huge fan of Neil Young and his music and will continue to be regardless of Neil's political views."
Young might have been onto something, though. As Rolling Stone discovered in a deep-dive into copyright rules, a candidate can secure the rights to use a song and still be forced to cease playing it if the owner asks them to stop. An ASCAP copyright primer reads: "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, including 'Right of Publicity' and 'False Endorsement.'"
"Keep on Rockin' in the Free World," from Young's 1989 Freedom album, was meant to criticize then-President George H.W. Bush and later became an anthem for the fall of communism.
Stories like this unfailingly appear during just about every election cycle. Perhaps the most famous example was when Bruce Springsteen asked Ronald Reagan to stop using "Born in the USA" in his 1984 political campaign. More recently, punk outfit the Dropkick Murphys tweeted to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who was using their song "Shipping Up to Boston" at rallies: "We literally hate you!"
Neil Young – "Rockin' in the Free World"