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Neil Young sues Donald Trump over copyright infringement

Neil Young has long expressed his disapproval over Donald Trump’s use of his music at campaign rallies, but now he is officially taking legal action against the U.S. President. 

The Canadian singer-songwriter — who obtained American citizenship earlier this year — took to his Neil Young Archives website to post a document of his legal complaint, which was filed in the U.S. Court for the Southern District of New York today, Young’s attorney confirmed to CBC Music. 

According to the files on his site, Young is suing Trump for copyright infringement, noting that Young “in good conscience cannot allow his music to be used as a ‘theme song’ for a divisive, un-American campaign of ignorance and hate.” 

Trump has been using Young’s music at campaign rallies since his 2015, when Young’s 1989 hit “Rockin’ in the Free World” was played at the announcement of Trump’s presidential candidacy. Back then, Young, who was a vocal supporter of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, told the press that Trump was not authorized to use his music. Trump’s campaign alleged to have obtained a license.

That track as well as “Devil’s Sidewalk” from Young’s 2003 Crazy Horse album, Greendale, are named in the lawsuit as songs that have been played “numerous times at rallies and political events for the entertainment and amusement of those attending those rallies and political events.” Both songs were played as recently as June 20, 2020, at Trump’s Tulsa, Okla., rally. 

In February, Young wrote an open letter to Trump, telling him he was “a disgrace to my country.” In July, he followed up with another letter calling the President out for repeatedly using his music “with no regard for my rights, even calling me names on Twitter.” He ended that note saying: “Because you are in charge of the Covid 19 response here in the USA, I will not sue you (as certainly is my right) potentially distracting from your important work at hand protecting and saving American lives.”

The lawsuit also states that “this complaint is not intended to disrespect the rights and opinions of American citizens, who are free to support the candidate of their choosing.” 

Young is seeking “statutory damages in the maximum amount allowed for willful copyright infringement.”

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