The Rolling Stones Threaten Litigation Against Donald Trump — BMI Offers to Help

Rolling Stones threaten Trump
  • Save

Rolling Stones threaten Trump
  • Save
Photo Credit: Michael Candelori

After sending several cease-and-desist orders, the Rolling Stones are now threatening legal action against Trump.

President Trump played the Rolling Stones song, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” during his Tulsa rally and a subsequent rally in Arizona. The song’s usage drew criticism from the band, who now has performance rights organization BMI on their side.

Legally speaking, Trump is probably in the clear given the nature of US-based public performance rights licensing. But BMI is focusing on a political exclusion clause that remains largely untested. “BMI has notified the Trump campaign on behalf of the Stones that the unauthorized use of their songs will constitute a breach of its licensing agreement,” the band’s representative says. “If Donald Trump disregards the exclusion and persists, then he would face a lawsuit for breaking the embargo and playing music that has not been licensed.”

The Trump campaign has not responded to the Rolling Stones’ threat of legal action.

The Rolling Stones have been a vocal opponent of Trump for years. In 2016, the band complained about the use of their music at his rallies. Those initial complaints and cease-and-desist orders didn’t hold much weight, however. Trump’s rallies are typically held at venues with blanket public performance licenses – meaning he doesn’t need permission to play the music. And the venue, not the Trump campaign, might be the actual defendant if the Stones file suit.

But how might the involvement of BMI change Trump’s response to the Rolling Stones? The music rights organization handles licensing for venues with a catalog of more than 15 million songs. Artists can opt-out of having their music played at political events, though it’s uncertain whether the Trump campaign or venue will face penalties for non-compliance (so far, they haven’t).

According to a BMI statement, the Rolling Stones excluded their music from political events.

BMI says that if the Trump campaign continues to play Rolling Stones music, it will be in breach of its licensing agreement. This move lays the groundwork for the Rolling Stones to actually sue Trump for his unauthorized use of their music, and test the matter in court. Of course, the Stones aren’t the only group who took umbrage with Trump’s rally playlist.

Tom Petty’s family issued a statement after his song “I Won’t Back Down” was played at the same Tulsa rally.

“Trump was in no way authorized to use this song to further a campaign that leaves too many Americans and common sense behind,” the Petty family wrote in a statement. “Both the late Tom Petty and his family firmly stand against racism and discrimination of any kind. Tom Petty would never want a song of his to be used in a campaign of hate. He liked to bring people together.”

Critics quickly pointed out that Petty has performed against giant Confederate flag backdrops, though the artist later disavowed the association. But one of his biggest tracks, ‘Rebel,’ sounds like a Confederate rallying cry: “I was born a rebel, down in Dixie/On a Sunday morning” the chorus declares. Still, Petty isn’t here to defend himself — or, for that matter, voice his opinion on the Trump campaign.

Separately, Neil Young also lashed out at Trump in 2018 after one of his songs played during a Trump rally. “Rockin’ in the Free World” prompted a letter to Trump and a cease-and-desist from the Canadian-born artist.

17 Responses

  1. Dr. Faucibreath

    I hope conservatives wake up and realize this is war. Leftists, Antifa, and BLM want to destroy you.

    This is how Hitler came to power.

  2. Bill

    The Stones, as well as other artists who do not give permission, have every right to sue. The typical response by uninformed people here is – blanket license. Well, that’s not true if you do a shred of research.

    • Joe Friday

      It is true if the license permits it. Do some research.

      • Bill

        Yes, you should do some research. Artists can opt-out and restrict use. The Stones have done just that.

  3. restless94110

    The washed up drugged out old codgers called The Rolling Stones wants to violate copyright law by trying to prevent people from hearing one of their most uplifting songs? And BMI wants to help them to carry out that atrocity? Yes, it’s an atrocity. The law is on Trump’s side. The licensing fees have been paid.

    Likewise for the bickering Petty family. I’m so glad that they don’t want Tom’s songs to be played to promote racism and division, because Trump is the opposite of both those labels. Therefore, the family that are suing each other for a piece of the Petty royalty pie can get back to arguing and fighting with each other and leave their petty nastiness towards the President behind.

    • Try Me

      It’s very clear Joe Friday and restless94110 have no understanding of how blanket licenses work. The artists are in the right here. Trump is not. (shocker) ASCAP/BMI/SESAC/GMR all follow similar policies. Artists can opt-out of having their music used in a political setting. Here are the 3 laws that can be used against Trump:
      1. The artist’s Right of Publicity, which in many states provides image protection for famous people or artists
      2. The Lanham Act, which covers confusion or dilution of a trademark (such as a band or artist name) through its unauthorized use
      3. False Endorsement, where use of the artist’s identifying work implies that the artist supports a product or candidate.

      • Dr. Faucibreath

        Sorry, Perry Mason, your legal theories do not work. The cool thing is it just makes Trump supporters hate Hollywood even more when these nimrods take PRO money then scream like babies that the PRO issued a license.

        • Bill

          Another comment showing you have no idea what a license is. If you are in any way involved in the music industry, you’re a complete faker.

        • Try Me

          Dr. Dickforbrains, it’s not a legal theory. It’s facts. ASCAP for example has it listed on their website and they even warn against the possibility of being sued. So, try again. The artists may not have the grounds to sue on copyright infringement, but they do have the right to sue on the grounds that I mentioned above.

      • Bill

        All true. And all that information is easily accessible, but losers that post and re-post the same false information won’t take the time or effort.

    • Bill

      Violate copyright law? You’re a mess. Copyright has nothing to do with this. They own their rights and can choose who gets to use their music or not.

      • Joe Friday

        Wrong. They enter agreements that allow a PRO to license it on their behalf, and they get paid a portion of what the PRO collects. The PRO issues all kinds of licenses, including blanket licenses with no restrictions.

        Get a job already, nimrod.

        • Burt

          You are wrong again. You think you know what you’re talking about, but you don’t. And, you’re too stupid to actually look into why you’re wrong, so you’ll keep repeating ignorance.