Neil Young’s lawsuit against Donald Trump, filed in opposition to his music being used in campaign rallies, has been dismissed by a New York court.
The musician voluntarily dismissed the case himself, “with prejudice”, which means it cannot be brought again. It is possible that the case was settled out of court, though neither the president’s team nor Young has made any further statement.
Young filed the lawsuit in August, after his songs Rockin’ in the Free World and Devil’s Sidewalk were used at a Trump rally in Tulsa. He claimed copyright infringement, with the complaint stating that Young “cannot allow his music to be used as a ‘theme song’ for a divisive, un-American campaign of ignorance and hate”. He said Trump had repeatedly played the songs as far back as 2015, and claimed he did not have a licence to play them.
Young first complained about Trump’s use of Rockin’ in the Free World on the campaign trail in 2015, but Trump’s team argued they had a performance licence for the song. Young said in 2016 that he had “nothing against” Trump, adding: “He actually got a licence to use it. I mean, he said he did and I believe him … But if the artist who made it is saying you never spoke to them, if that means something to you, you probably will stop playing it. And it meant something to Donald and he stopped.”
Trump himself said “Rockin’ in the Free World was just one of 10 songs used as background music. Didn’t love it anyway.” But he started to use the song again in his 2020 re-election campaign, by which time Young had become a frequently outspoken opponent of the president.
Ahead of his August lawsuit, Young said he was considering bringing it after seeing the deployment of what he described as “trooper thugs” to tackle protesters in Portland. He also criticised Trump in June, after he played Rockin’ in the Free World and Like a Hurricane at a Mount Rushmore speech.
Trump still faces a lawsuit from musician Eddy Grant, who opposed the use of his song Electric Avenue in a campaign video, and said it was used without a licence. Trump’s legal team have argued they were allowed to use it under a “fair use” clause.