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Neil Young to Donald Trump: Don't rock at my expense

People in California and elsewhere who are old enough to remember the 1984 presidential election likely recall quite clearly images of Ronald Reagan stepping up to podiums across the country with flags waving and the song "Born in the U.S.A." blaring in the background.

Reagan thought the tune conveyed a strong patriotic theme, which he wanted his campaign associated with. He sometimes paid lip service to the song and its author, legendary rock star Bruce Springsteen.

There was a problem with that, though, and it was twofold: The tune expressed reservations about the Vietnam War and America's treatment of vets, and Springsteen was -- and continues to be -- an unabashed liberal who didn't want his work tied to the president's reelection efforts.

Fast forward, and here we are again, with just-declared presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign snuggling up to singer Neil Young's song "Rockin' in the Free World." Reportedly, Trump is simply a fan of Young and likes the tune. A spokesperson for the candidate says that the campaign is using the song legally, given that it secured rights to play it through a license agreement executed with ASCAP.

Like Springsteen, Young is piqued by the association of his music with a candidate he doesn't support.

His discontent breeds this question: Is there anything different about using a song for political purposes that requires something more than a licensing agreement with ASCAP?

A recent media article focused on the Young/Trump spat suggests that there is, with full clearance to use copyrighted music for political reasons requiring the permission of the music's publisher and, perhaps, music label.

The above-noted article further notes that Young and other similarly situated artists can file legal challenges based on false endorsement and related claims in efforts to enjoin the use of their music for political purposes.

We'll likely hear similar stories in the future, given that politicians like a catchy tune just as much as anyone else.

Source: Fortune, "Neil Young hates that Donald Trump is using his music," Laura Lorenzetti," June 17, 2015

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