Who is not a fan of Adele? Donald Trump seems to fancy her music as he has been using her hits “Rolling in the deep” and “Skyfall” during his political rallies at the Iowa caucus. However, Adele does not seem to share the same sentiments towards him. The use of Adele’s music stirred much concern amongst her fans and they took to twitter to express those concerns. Recently, Adele’s spokesman made this statement, “Adele has not given permission for her music to be used for any political campaigning.” Adele is not the first victim falling prey to a Trump campaign. A record-breaking amount of stars join a long list of musicians including Neil Young, REM and Aerosmith, who have asked presidential hopeful to leave their songs alone.
Technically, copyright laws allow political candidates to use just about any song they want, as long as they’re played at a stadium, arena or other venue that already has a public-performance license through the ASCAP. The ASCAP is the country’s first and largest performing right organization, representing over 10 million musical works from over 525,000 songwriters and composers. It is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to protecting members’ rights and obtaining fair compensation for public performance of their copyrighted musical works. While political campaigns can obtain licensing for playing any song they want, the campaign can still be criticized or even sued by an artist for playing his/her song at an event. If an artist does not want their song played, they can take legal action under any of the following claims:
- “Right of Publicity”, which in many states provides image protection for famous people or artists.
- The “Lanham Act”, which covers the confusion or dilution of a trademark (such as a band or artist name) through its unauthorized use.
- “False Endorsement” where use of the artist’s identifying work implies that the artist supports a product or candidate.
While Adele is currently not seeking a legal claim, just merely a cease and desist of the use of her songs, she does have other options in her arsenal if she cares to use them. Trump seems to be following a pattern of rejection from musical artists and some rejections have been harsher than others. REM’s Michael Stipe used stronger language after Trump used their song, “It’s the end of the world as we know it” at a rally. He stated, “Go (profanity omitted) 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.”
The Trump team can easily avoid any liability/embarrassment by reaching out to management for the artists and obtaining permission. However, that may be easier said than done as many do not support the rhetoric being broadcasted from Trump campaigns. It would not be surprising if a suit would eventually ensue if Trump continues to use music without the permission of the artists.