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Takedown notice against Trump’s Nickelback video was sent by Warner Music

By | Published on Friday 4 October 2019


While A-ha might not have been pleased that a new Donald Trump campaign video looks a bit like their ‘Take On Me’ video, there wasn’t much they could do about it. When Trump followed it up by using an actual clip of Nickelback in another video, though, it quickly became the latest post by the US President to be taken down for infringing copyright.

In his latest attempt to discredit rival Joe Biden, Trump used a clip from Nickelback’s ‘Photograph’ video when sharing a photograph (there’s the link, see!) that he claims proves corruption allegations he has made against the former American Vice President and 2020 presidential candidate.

Trump now faces possible impeachment over allegations that he withheld aid to Ukraine in order to pressure its president into investigating the business affairs in the country of Biden’s son Hunter, mainly in a bid to embarrass his political rival. Trump has since also called on China to launch a similar investigation, despite so far failing to produce any evidence of wrongdoing on the part of either Biden.

Although it’s still not clear exactly what Nickelback’s views are regarding having their faces attached to Trump’s latest attack video, records show that it was Warner Music, owner of their former label Roadrunner, which submitted takedown notices to Twitter and YouTube successfully having it removed from both platforms.

Trump has mainly annoyed artists by using their music at his rallies without permission, which is more complicated in copyright terms, because the venues he uses may have a blanket licence from collecting societies like BMI and ASCAP. Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler did submit a formal challenge over his music being used at a rally, citing various legal arguments, but the matter never reached court.

However, in the case of videos using a band’s music or imagery the case is more clear cut. Unless permission is secured from the owners of the copyright material, then its use is illegal. Something Trump and his team should be aware of. Not least because this isn’t the first time they’ve had something taken down.

Earlier this year, the Warner Bros movie company – a separate business to Warner Music – submitted a takedown notice against another Trump campaign video due to its use of music from the soundtrack of Batman film ‘The Dark Knight Rises’. Records show that several other takedowns against Trump’s Twitter account have been privately submitted over the course of 2019.

As we’ve previously noted, given that annoying musicians by using their work without first seeking permission has been a feature of Trump’s entire (still relatively brief) political career, it seems likely that this is a tactic to maximise coverage of things that might otherwise go unnoticed. Or at least less noticed. And while repeatedly infringing the intellectual property rights of record companies, movie studios and superstars is hardly a good look for a President, it is probably just the sort of thing his supporters like about him.