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Eddy Grant sues Donald Trump

By | Published on Wednesday 2 September 2020

Donald Trump

In part 4,000,876 of our regular series ‘Musicians Fucked Off That Donald Trump Used Their Music’ we have another lawsuit for you. Although this one is seemingly more straightforward. Eddy Grant has sued Trump over his use of ‘Electric Avenue’ in a campaign video posted to Twitter last month.

Countless artists and songwriters, of course, have hit out at Trump over him using their music without permission ever since he first started dabbling in politics five years ago. And as the US President’s stint in power has become ever more controversial, an increasing number of those musicians have started talking about taking legal action.

When the music is used at an event, there are complications with any such litigation, as both the Trump campaign and most of the venues it makes use of will have licences from US collecting societies BMI and ASCAP.

While songwriters can opt out of the specific political licences provided by the US societies, and in that scenario licensees aren’t meant to then rely on any venue licence instead, there are still some legal ambiguities over whether or not copyright has actually been infringed. Though Neil Young is testing all that out with his recent lawsuit.

However, when Team Trump use uncleared music in a video, things are more straightforward, as a direct licence is generally required for such things unless any sort of fair use defence can be mounted. So, providing the facts as described by Grant in his new lawsuit are sound, he probably has a much stronger case for copyright infringement against the President.

That lawsuit provides a description of the Trump video in which Grant’s 1983 hit ‘Electric Avenue’ was used. “The infringing video contains a visual depiction of a high-speed red train bearing the words ‘Trump Pence KAG 2020′”, it notes, “in stark contrast to a slow-moving handcar bearing the words ‘Biden President: Your Hair Smells Terrific'”.

An animated likeness of Biden also features, while “out-of-context excerpts of Former Vice President Biden’s speeches and interviews are played over plaintiffs’ recording”.

The lawsuit then states that none of the plaintiffs – which are Grant and two of his companies – “nor any agent on their respective behalves, has licensed any rights” in the ‘Electric Avenue’ song or recording “to either Mr Trump or [his campaign organisation], or otherwise consented to defendants’ use of the [track] in connection with the infringing video”.

When Grant spoke out against Trump’s campaign video when it was first posted last month, his legal rep also noted that the nature of the President’s use of ‘Electric Avenue’ – which was written by Grant in response to the 1981 Brixton Riot in London – “indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of the very meaning of the underlying work”.

Twitter has now confirmed it has removed the offending video because of the legal action. We await to see how Trump responds to the lawsuit.