Donald Trump Illegally Uses Neil Young’s Music During Presidential Campaign Announcement


During his announcement that he is going to run for the Republican nomination, Donald Trump used Neil Young’s Rockin’ In The Free World. It is a safe bet that Trump both had no idea what the song means and didn’t get Young’s permission to use his music.

During a scripted moment during his speech, Trump announced that he was running for president, pointed skyward, and Rockin’ In The Free World began playing.


The lyrics of the song Rockin’ In The Free World are a stinging criticism of the policies of then-President George H.W. Bush. The same kinds of policies that Donald Trump stands for today. The use of Young’s music was no accident, and it is extremely unlikely that the Canadian singer gave permission to Trump to use one of his most familiar hits.

A 2012 New York Times article pointed out that it is common for candidates to ignore copyright laws:

Until the recent cases, the only risk to the candidate was a spot of bad publicity.

“Because nobody sued, the candidates always thought they could get away with it, and they still think that today,” said Lawrence Iser, a copyright lawyer in Los Angeles who represented Mr. Browne and Mr. Byrne. “What did you get? You got some publicity. You got a takedown letter. Typically the campaigns would stop using the piece.”

Here’s hoping that Neil Young’s representatives have already drafted a letter to Donald Trump telling him not use the artist’s music without permission again. The fact that Trump would use a song that is so critical of Republicans in his campaign launch is proof of the absolute level of cluelessness of reality television personality.

Neil Young’s work should not be diminished by being attached to Donald Trump’s racist circus.

55 Replies to “Donald Trump Illegally Uses Neil Young’s Music During Presidential Campaign Announcement”


  2. Mr. Young is not amused. I wish they would go after these Politian’s for illegally using their music like they do to people who does it. Its called copyright infringement and you do have to pay royalties. And seeing how many people will watch this on the news that’s a whole lot of ears.

  3. Instead of just getting :
    “bad publicity & stop using the music”

    Trump should have to pay-back for using it and then more for the re-playing of it.

    Trump can afford to do the “right thing”,
    but he won’t because he is “entitled” to take whatever he wants w/o any responsibility. That is the GOP way!

  4. …or Michelle Bachman used American Girl (about a woman committing suicide) or Sean Hannity used Independence Day (about a wife setting fire to her abusive husband)

  5. That was HW Bush and he was told immediately, STOP IT, IMBECILE, you don’t understand the song. Same with Krispy Kreme.

  6. trump is the DEVIL


    Question 1: you have run four companies into bankruptcy, why should we trust you to run a country?

    Game over.

  7. Trump is not a serious contender. He never was. All he wants is the attention and publicity, both for him and his “reality” show.

    Oh, and those 4 companies he ran into bankruptcy, the only ones that took it in the shorts were the investors, Trump came out of them with more money than he invested. How do you think he has made so much money?

  8. Q: What new law was recently passed in Alabama?

    A: When a couple gets divorced, they’re still brother and sister!

  9. Neil’s been pretty easy going on copyrights. “I don’t have to get paid for everything.”

    BUT…he cares deeply about his politics and they could not be further from Heir Trump’s view of the world. His new girl friend, Darryl Hannah also has a bit of ‘tude about politics as well.

    If anything, Neil is already putting the final touches on a new song about Trump….and it’s a given that The Donald is not going to be pleased with it.

  10. It is Trump’s building, he can play whatever music he wants. Stupid story.
    Neal? don’t need him around anyhow!

  11. Funniest part of the moment is clipped off here. Watch another 3 seconds and you’ll see Trump sense the underwhelming volume of applause and awkwardly cue the music off.

  12. Ok how in the hell does this author know Trump didn’t get permission?
    Although I do agree he most likely did not, it is bad journalism to jump to a conclusion.
    The song IS NOT about Bush. It is about the internal and external challenges America was facing in the late 80’s. Everything from flag burning anti Americans at home and abroad to homelessness to drug addiction.

  13. Failed, yet again, billybones, twice!! In a statement released to Mother Jones for Neil Young, longtime manager Elliot Roberts suggests Young was not pleased by Trump’s use of the song:
    “Donald Trump’s use of “Rockin’ in the Free World” was NOT authorized; Mr. Young is a longtime supporter of Bernie Sanders.” It was also noted that the song was an odd choice given that the 1989 song seemed to slam a Republican administration for not giving a damn about the poor.
    You really must enjoy failing in all of your postings…

  14. You are very simply wrong about one thing. While he may not have gotten Neil Young’s permission to use the song, your hatred of all things Trump/Republican is clouding your views.

    Mr. Trump clearly stated distain for the last four sitting Presidents. He also clearly stated that he was going to act in an entirely different manner than all of them. This includes former President Bush.

    Did you listen? Or are you just angry at Republicans and Businessmen?

    Everyone is allowed an opinion and I respect opinions. But misinformed people should not be allowed to spew hatred.

  15. Only Mr. Young and Trump know the truth to that, just because it was “suggested” that he didn’t doesn’t mean that he didn’t.
    Also I said that I agree that he probably did not.
    I did not say it wasn’t about the republicans prior screw-ups I said it is not about bush alone. And going by the thousand points of lite thing you could also say its about Jesse Jackson. One of his quotes is also used.

  16. . But misinformed people should not be allowed to spew hatred.

    That’s what trump has been doing for the past 7 years. Birth certificate? You must be a birther.

  17. Billybones: “I did not say it wasn’t about the Republicans prior screw-ups, I said it wasn’t about Bush alone.” But, in your first posting you said: “The song IS NOT about Bush.”
    Failed again!!

  18. Now you’re you do on most of the comments you make. Neil Young and Donald Trump go together like water and oil. You are a poster child for what makes up the constituency of the republican party. Clueless.

  19. I don’t think Trump needs PERMISSION, I think he just needs to pay the royalties for having played it. I don’t think copyright protection stops anyone from playing it… I believe it only establishes ownership in case someone tries to profit and call it their own. My advice to ‘the Donald’ would be to pay your royalties to someone who appreciates the fact they can HAVE a copyright! Tough taters to Young…. wonder if campaigns can claim “fair use” doctrine and pay NOTHING??? Pick another and BETTER song Trump… give your cash to someone more deserving.

  20. Neil Young’s rep issued a statement 1 hour after Donald Trump used his song. He did not give permission, and (He is a Canadian citizen, so he won’t be voting in 2016, but) he supports Bernie Sanders.

  21. Who cares….McCain used born in the USA without Bruce’s permission, but we know what that song is really about….He just wanted to use the song because of the “chorus” ….so did Donald Trump…..

  22. To this day, I can’t listen to Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop” thinking about tomorrow…I have to turn it off or skip to another song….reminds me of Slick Willie…..

  23. Jason, you have accused Trump of “illegally” using Young’s music. So I should be able to find facts that establish the law and how it was broken in your article, correct? While you reference an article indicating that copyright laws are frequently broken, how can the reader conclude that laws were broken in this case? Without this information, this is just an anti-Trump rant; for you and for Mr. Young. When you play your Neil Young CD’s at home do you call Mr. Young first? Oh, but that is private you say. OK, does your local cover band call Mr. Young to seek permission before covering his songs in a bar? Does a restaurant call him before it plays a song by way of broadcasting the local radio station? See, there is this thing called licensing. Trump’s spokesman claims he possessed one. If you say he is incorrect, then do some real reporting and show us the facts. And for full disclosure, I would not vote for Trump or Sanders.

  24. You have to pay a licensing fee when you perform or play any copyright song for public consumption.
    This shit aint rocket science

    Music Industry Execs Want NightClub & Hip Hop DJs to Pay Royalties for Songs-Case Before Appeals Court

    Why ASCAP Licenses Bars, Restaurants & Music Venues

  25. The reference was to then-president George H.W. Bush’s rhetoric (“We got a thousand points of light / For the homeless man / We got a kinder, gentler / Machine gun hand”).

  26. seriously? you have got to be joking. neil young and his management just said they did not give permission because trump never asked. what is so hard to understand about that? you righties are insane.

  27. Just how is this illegal? Generally an event or a venue will hold a license (BMI/ASCAP) that allows play of copyrighted music. There are a few guidelines – but it does not seem that the music was edited to video or performed by another artist – I suppose a case could be made on a trademark or branding issue, but even that would be a tough sell in court. There also may be an issue with it’s broadcast… but only if it was private. If it was a news broadcast… that’s a different issue.

    Can you illuminate the issue with the actual law that was broken?

  28. It would be very hard for a musician to win a trademark lawsuit against a politician who had purchased a license to play the song.

    I suspect that most of the time, politicians avoid using songs after the artist comes out against them because they’d prefer to avoid having a bunch of stories about how the musician is voting for the other candidate.

  29. That’s highly questionable legal advice.

    Right of publicity generally refers to to someone’s image or likeness. So, for instance, if Trump had put Neil Young on a campaign poster, even if Trump owned the copyright to that photograph, that could create problems.

    Trademark dilution (which is what they mean by referencing the Lanham Act) would involve something like, say, using “Lego” in the name of your men’s clothing store. It would be trademark infringement if you used it for a toy company. That pretty clearly doesn’t apply here.

    For false endorsement, that’s kind of similar to right of publicity, but there’s a stronger argument that use of music could apply here. However, the musician would need to prove likelihood of confusion, in other words they’d need to prove that the general public believes that Trump’s use of the song means that Neil Young is endorsing Trump. It’s very likely that the general public understands that songs at political events don’t imply …

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