- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Neil Young sued President Trump’s reelection campaign in federal court Tuesday for using his music without permission during a political rally held June 20 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Lawyers for the legendary Canadian-American musician filed a copyright infringement suit in light of two of his songs being played at the Tulsa rally without authorization.

“This complaint is not intended to disrespect the rights and opinions of American citizens, who are free to support the candidate of their choosing. However, Plaintiff in good conscience cannot allow his music to be used as a ‘theme song’ for a divisive, un-American campaign of ignorance and hate,” Mr. Young’s attorneys wrote in Manhattan federal court.

While prompted by the president’s recent Tulsa rally, the lawsuit is more than five years in the making and traces its roots to the day Mr. Trump began running for the White House.

On June 16, 2015, Mr. Trump announced his candidacy moments after descending an elevator inside Trump Tower to the tune of Mr. Young’s 1989 single “Rockin’ in the Free World.”

Mr. Young issued a statement within hours saying he had not authorized the song’s usage by the Trump campaign and that he was supporting one of his Democratic rivals in the race.

Over a half-decade later, he recently cried foul after hearing the tune during a July 3 event at Mount Rushmore where the president spoke, as well as the Tulsa rally weeks earlier.

After stating last month he would refrain from suing the president to avoid distracting him from combatting the continuing novel coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Young, 74, later wrote on his website that he was reconsidering in light of the Trump administration deploying federal officers to quell unrest in cities where protests have recently taken place.

Indeed, lawyer Ivan Saperstein and Robert S. Besser followed through this week in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan where the suit was filed.

Mr. Trump’s campaign has publicly played “Rockin’ in the Free World” and “Devil’s Sidewalk,” another song by Mr. Young, “numerous times at rallies and political events for the entertainment and amusement of those attending those rallies and political events,” including namely the Tulsa rally, the musician’s lawyer wrote.

“The campaign has willfully ignored plaintiff’s telling it not to play the songs and willfully proceeded to play the songs despite its lack of a license and despite its knowledge that a license is required to do so,” they added.

The suit seeks a court order blocking the Trump campaign from playing any of Mr. Young’s music, as well as statutory damages for each infringement and legal fees.

Mr. Trump’s campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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