November 2019. Rock band Queen’s music publisher has managed to get a video promoting Donald Trump removed from the Twitter social media site. The video, which was part of a campaign endorsing the US president, contained footage of some of his speeches accompanied by a soundtrack featuring the Queen hit We will rock you.
No Queen for Trump
A spokesperson for the band told the Buzzfeed News website that Queen had since notified the Trump campaign team that it objected to them using the band’s music in their promotional campaigns.
We are the champions
Queen had already locked horns with Trump in 2016 over his campaign team’s use of another of its numbers. Back then, Queen guitarist Brian May made it clear on his own website that he wasn’t happy that Trump had used their number We are the champions at the Republican convention.
Musicians regularly object to politicians making use of their music for political ends. Several distinguished artists, such as Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and Jackson Brown have all had their music ‘used’ without their consent to boost the political campaigns of Donald Trump, Ronald Reagan and John McCain, among others.
Far from simple
But it’s less clear whether the musicians actually have a legal leg to stand on. After all, performing artists often disseminate their music through licensing organisations. Anyone who pays the requisite copyright fee (which the politicians will certainly have done) then has the right to use it, which makes it difficult for the musicians to claim their work isn’t being used as they’d intended!
In The Netherlands another possibility is for performers to instigate legal proceedings based on their personality rights. Personality rights allow ‘makers’ (such as composers) to contest the use of their work if they feel that doing so compromises their name or reputation. This could provide them with some leverage. That said, such cases are far from simple. And in any event, these disputes are often settled by the alleged infringer quickly cutting his or her losses by no longer using the music concerned.