Rihanna and others ask Donald Trump to
please, stop the music
Photos By: Pressherald, Fortune, Time, and Youtube
Anna Schmitt, Staff Writer
It would appear as though President Donald Trump is going to have to stop the music. Pop singer and makeup mogul Rihanna is one of the latest in a string of musicians politely demanding that Trump and his campaign immediately discontinue the unauthorized use of their music during rallies. The orders often come in the form of cease-and-desist letters, drafted by the legal teams of the singer in question. The list, which spans the entirety of Trump’s presidency, includes performers such as Neil Young, Elton John, and Queen. With Rihanna’s name added to the mix, a total of fourteen musicians have spoken out against Trump and the campaign’s use of their work.
It all began with Trump’s announcement of his candidacy, and a plea from Neil Young to remove the track “Rockin in the Free World” from the campaign playlist. While the Trump campaign had, in fact, gained the rights to use Young’s song, it was removed from rotation out of respect for Young’s wishes. This instance did not stop the campaign from later using the track at midterm rallies, prompting further statement from Young:
[Donald Trump] does not have my permission to use the song ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’ at his appearances. Legally, he has the right to, however, it goes against my wishes. I made this perfectly clear after he played it in a media moment to announce his candidacy. I asked him then, in a widely shared public letter, to cease and desist. However, he chose not to listen to my request, just as he chooses not to listen to the many American voices who ask him to stop his constant lies, to stop his petty, nasty name calling and bullying, to stop pushing his dangerous, vilifying and hateful rhetoric.
The statement was published in an open letter to the campaign, Vulture reports. The letter is only one of several expressing displeasure with Trump, both for the use of the music and on a political level.
Upon receiving the news that her 2008 hit, “Please Don’t Stop the Music” had been used at a rally in Chattanooga, Rihanna tweeted that neither she, nor her team would ever be caught at one of Trump’s “tragic rallies.” A formal cease-and-desist letter soon followed. Rihanna’s comments were kind in comparison to others, with R.E.M. front-man Michael Stipe tweeting out, “Go fuck yourselves, the lot of you — you sad, attention grabbing, power-hungry little men. Do not use our music or my voice for your moronic charade of a campaign.” According to Vulture, the tweet came after the formal statement asking that the campaign discontinue the use of the song, “It’s the End of the World.” Elton John remained polite on the topic of Trump’s politics, but did question the campaign’s choice of artists, “Why not ask Ted fucking Nugent? Or one of those fucking country stars? They’ll do it for you.” John would later go on to decline an invitation to perform at Trump’s inauguration.
John raises an interesting point: Why not ask? According to The Legal Artist, the unauthorized use of music is considered a copyright infringement, and in the case of artists can become an issue of trademark. While in some cases, the Trump campaign was within their legal rights to use music at rallies or promotions, whether through agreements with record labels or technicalities in venue contracts, these would only protect from claims of copyright infringement. Matters of trademark concern the established brand of the artists, and they are protected under certain legislative acts such as the Lanham Act, which protects musicians from the damaging effects of implied endorsement of a political party. If an artist does not wish to be associated with a campaign, then they are within their rights to ask that the music does, indeed, stop.