Aerosmith Threatens Donald Trump for Using ‘Dream On’ at His Rallies

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This is an issue that always bubbles up during the political season, but one in which artists have very little recourse.  Enter Aerosmith, which is now protesting Donald Trump’s heavy use of their mega-classic, “Dream On,” during campaign rallies.  According to the Hollywood Reporter, the band has now issued two cease-and-desists against Trump, with both demanding the immediate termination of the song during rallies.

“Trump for President does not have our client’s permission to use ‘Dream On’…”

The problem for Aerosmith is one of association, with the perception that the band is supporting Trump’s candidacy (even though they’re not). “Trump for President does not have our client’s permission to use ‘Dream On’ or any of our client’s other music in connection with the Campaign because it gives the false impression that he is connected with or endorses Mr. Trump’s presidential bid,” the cease-and-desist letter states, according to the Reporter.

Unfortunately for Aerosmith, Trump can probably ignore the legal threat, or even worse, make the band look stupid with it.  Just recently, Survivor protested the use of ‘Eye of the Tiger’ at an anti-gay marriage rally, with little result.  The reason is that as long as the even coordinators have secured proper public performance licenses from PROs ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and GMR, they’re in the clear.

Other issues related to association, and even damages in the event that a proper PRO license wasn’t obtained are largely untested in courts.  And even if there is a case here, Trump would likely relish the opportunity to fight it, in the most high-profile way possible.


Image of Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2015 in Washington, DC, taken by Gage Skidmore and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0).


12 Responses

    • Rick Shaw

      That’s purely your opinion, of course. Aerosmith does have a right to approve who uses their music. That’s fact.

      • littlemike

        Except that it’s not, Mr. Copyright Attorney. The article is correct as it stands.

  1. Name2

    Bette Midler won a right of publicity suit against a company which used a soundalike in one of their ads.

    So saying association is “untested” in court is not entirely true. That doesn’t make legal action worth anyone’s time, but there is a judicial history.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      OK, thanks. There are also out-of-court settlements, I think the Pizza Hut / Black Keys imbroglio ended without a formal legal decision. I wonder if that’s likeness/association, or just a copyright-focused matter though?

    • Name 3

      Soundalikes are a different type of copyright claim.

      Soundalikes pursued infringement of the exclusive right to perform an artist’s work on the basis of improper taking. It is an allegation that the soundalike confuses the public and diminishes the market for the original.

      The claim against Trump and others for use in a political campaign is essentially about the the right of public performance, of the actual composition. If the Trump campaign has acquired a public performance license from ASCAP, then there is no claim, as we’ve seen with several of these cases, in the past.

      There is often an additional claim made suggesting that the artist also should be able to avoid being associated with a person or endeavor that the artist does not endorse, and that is the claim for which there is very little jurisprudence in the U.S.

    • Anonymous

      Ads are different. Songs used in a commercial sense against any sort of picture would require synch rights, which you have to obtain permissions for. Songs used in campaign trails can sometimes be justified as emphemeral/fair use which would only need a performance agreement with PROs. That’s the loophole, unfortunately.

    • littlemike

      There is a difference between recording a TV commercial or show (which requires a sync license) and playing a song in a public performance, the rights for which are secured by paying the fee to ASCAP, BMI, etc.

  2. Anon

    Dream On is pretty appropriate for the wig guy, let him keep it…he ain’t getting anything else.

    • littlemike

      I assume you’re referring to Bolshevik Bernie, whose fright wig looks like it was combed with an eggbeater.

  3. Omardog

    There should be a concerted effort among the major publishers to exclude political rallies and similar issue-oriented gatherings from the scope of the blanket licenses issued by performing rights societies. It would be very easy to do and would preclude scumbag politicians (funny how it’s almost always a Republican, right?) from unilaterally co-opting music while embarrassing the creators.