What is it with presidential candidates using songs at their campaign events without permission? Donald Trump is in trouble with Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler for using the song “Dream On” at a campaign event. According to a story on ABC News, the song was used without Aerosmith’s permission.
Tyler’s attorneys issued a cease-and-desist letter to Trump. The letter stated that Trump doesn’t have permission to use the song, and that Tyler in no way endorses Trump as a candidate.
This isn’t Trump’s first brush with music artists over the use of their work. He’s also gotten in trouble with Neil Young (and he blasted Young back for it), and he was ripped by REM for using their music, too. One would think that he’d learn after all this, but we are talking about Donald Trump. Perhaps he thinks he’s immune to copyright law. Or perhaps he believes these artists should be honored that he deigns to use their music, with or without their permission.
According to CNN, other GOP candidates have gotten into trouble for this, as well:
- St. Reagan found himself in hot water with Bruce Springsteen after using “Born in the U.S.A.” at a campaign event.
- Rand Paul angered Rush after using “Spirit of the Radio” during his campaign for the Senate in 2010.
- Rick Santorum was on the receiving end of this same kind of wrath from Black Sabbath, The WASP and Venom (he didn’t learn either?).
- Scott Walker got on Dropkick Murphys’ bad side for using one of their songs at the Iowa Freedom Summit.
- Michele Bachmann earned Tom Petty’s ire when she played “American Girl” as she announced her run for the presidency.
And the list goes on. It’s not limited to campaigns, either. Mike Huckabee and Kim Davis managed to piss off Survivor when they played “Eye of the Tiger” as Davis was released from jail. Newt Gingrich also ran afoul of Survivor for playing that same song at his own campaign events.
It also always seems to be Republicans who run into this problem. Some of them are just stupid. It’s not hard to believe that people like Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum honestly didn’t know they had to secure permission, and/or appear at a venue that already had the proper license, to play this music.
Donald Trump, as stated earlier, likely doesn’t care. He’s a spoiled, entitled boy. He might actually believe these artists should be pleased that he plays their music, giving them exposure (that they don’t need). Who knows what Huckabee thinks? Although TMZ says he did try to pass the blame for that gaffe off on Davis.
Has a Democrat ever run into this trouble? According to Slate, President Obama did, in 2008. He upset Sam Moore, of Sam and Dave, by playing their song, “Hold On, I’m Comin'” at events. When Moore asked Obama to stop, Obama did so.
There are two possibilities for why this seems to happen to Republicans far more than Democrats. The first is that musicians are artists, and artists tend to see their work as expressions of their hearts and souls. Therefore, when someone uses a particular song, it could be interpreted as an endorsement from the artist. Nobody likes finding out that they’ve endorsed something they didn’t know they were endorsing. Artists tend to be more liberal, and so they’re more likely to take issue with Republicans using their work than Democrats.
The other is that Republicans really are making unauthorized use of music more often than Democrats. A story on Fox News quotes an expert as saying “that these artists aren’t making political statements when they respond. They’re making statements about the law, and how candidates for public office need to obey the law. Copyright law protects them from unauthorized use of their work, and since their work is how they make their livings, just like the rest of us, that protection deserves consideration and recognition.”
Will Trump learn anything after receiving this cease-and-desist from Aerosmith? Only time will tell. His ego is so big, though, that it might take something actually causing financial or reputational harm to his campaign for this before he learns his lesson. One thing is clear, however. He, and other candidates need to figure out copyright law fast.
Image of Steven Tyler by Mick man34. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons. Image of Donald Trump by Michael Vadon. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons. Images cropped and merged by Rika Christensen