Trump’s Copyright Battle with Queen

Trump’s Copyright Battle with Queen

Originally posted 2018-11-19 11:21:04

Trump/QueenBy Toshia Smith | Editor: Kristen Daly |

On the campaign trail, it is commonplace to hear popular music as a politician walks on stage to give a speech. It serves as a way for those in positions of power to connect with everyday people and their love of the same song. One notion that is also commonplace is musicians asking politicians to stop using their music for promotional purposes. In this 2016 presidential race, GOP nominee Donald Trump has repeatedly been asked by the band Queen not to use their highly popular song “We Are the Champions” during his campaign stops. Trump has refused their requests, even making it a point to walk out to the song before his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.

Copyright law would normally rule in this case that Queen could seek legal help in stopping Trump from infringing on their rights as copyright owners. However, the problem in this case and others for songwriters, is that Trump paid the license fee for use of the song in the arena. All the Trump campaign had to do was buy the license from Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), which owns the license to “We Are The Champions” and countless other famous songs. Queen’s only remedy would be if the Trump alluded to the band endorsing or advertising his campaign.

With the problem so many artists in the music industry have with not getting paid from illegal downloads or free streaming services, one would think that they would have more rights to their art when it comes to political campaigns. After all, a political campaign is just a giant advertisement for one person trying to get elected into office. However, a lot of artists do not own their own music. Music publishers such as BMI have the ability to profit off of the artwork without involving the artist in the process. This makes for a smooth business transaction, but may hurt the industry in the end.

Artists like Queen do not get to determine if a politician uses their music for public speeches at arenas, but another issue arises if the politician starts using the song for other means. When it comes to copyrights, courts will issue injunctions to stop the infringement of rights; but injunctions are virtually useless in this circumstance. By the time the artist has sought a legal remedy, the political campaign would most likely be over and an injunction would be rendered unnecessary.

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