Music often tells a powerful story, driving emotional connections. As a result, politicians rely on music in every aspect of their political campaigns from political advertisements to campaign rallies. There is a long history of such political uses of music, often without an artist’s permission. While most disputes over such uses have ended in either settlement or the campaign stopping use of the infringed work, former President Donald Trump’s unauthorized use of music on the campaign trail sparked countless artist complaints. The complaining musicians feared any implication that they endorsed Trump and did not want any association with a political figure who they did not support. Politicians and campaigns argue their right to use copyrighted works for political purposes is fair use, they are protected by the First Amendment, or that they are the owner of a valid license in a particular work through a blanket license. Recently, in Grant v. Trump, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York denied Trump’s motion to dismiss copyright infringement, finding Trump’s use of a song in his campaign advertisement did not constitute fair use. Politician’s use of a song must not constitute fair use when no change is made to the work, and politicians must ask for permission when using a copyrighted work. This comment will analyze the recent ruling in Grant v. Trump declining dismissal of a copyright infringement claim based on fair use, consider constitutional rights in copyright, discuss the role music has played in political campaigns and recent suits on the matter, and examine ways to protect copyright owners.
Copyright and Political Campaigns: How Much Control Should a Copyright Owner Have Over the Use of Their Musical Work in a Political Campaign,
31 U. MIA Bus. L. Rev.
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