Neil Young sues Trump’s ‘campaign of ignorance and hate’ for using his songs again

Musician Neil Young
Neil Young is suing the Trump campaign for using his songs without permission.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Legendary musician Neil Young has sued President Trump’s campaign for copyright infringement after it used Young’s music to promote a “campaign of ignorance and hate.”

Young’s songs “Rockin’ in the Free World” and “Devil’s Sidewalk” were played “numerous times at rallies and political events,” namely during the president’s June campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., without license or Young’s permission, alleged the complaint, posted Tuesday on Young’s website.

“This complaint is not intended to disrespect the rights and opinions of American citizens, who are free to support the candidate of their choosing,” the document said. “However, [Young] 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 veteran musician said that the campaign, Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., “willfully ignored” and “willfully proceeded” to play the songs even after Young objected to the use of “Rockin’ in the Free World” at Trump’s 2015 presidential campaign announcement. The organization produced a license required to play the song at the time after Young’s public objection.


Neil Young has now elaborated on the short response he issued Tuesday to Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump, who used Young’s song “Rockin’ in the Free World” during the announcement of his presidential candidacy.

June 18, 2015

Young demanded that further performance of the songs be halted at public events associated with the campaign, for statutory damages between $750 to $150,000 for each infringement, as well as the cost of the lawsuit and attorney fees, the complaint said.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court Southern District of New York, Young’s attorney Ivan Saperstein told The Times.

The Trump campaign did not immediately response to The Times’ request for comment.

Young, 74, an outspoken critic of the president, is among the many musicians who have criticized Trump for playing their work at his events. Others include the Rolling Stones, Rihanna, Adele, R.E.M. and the estate of Prince.

The Rolling Stones threatened legal action last month over the campaign’s disregard of a provision in the BMI Political Entities License that allows songwriters or publishers of the music to withdraw their work from the license. This after Trump again used the band’s hit “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” as his walk-off theme at the Tulsa rally.