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Neil Young posts lawsuit against Trump campaign over song use at political events

Jennifer McClellan, USA TODAY

Neil Young posted a lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s campaign to his Archives site Tuesday, claiming it’s a copyright infringement for the president and his campaign to play “Rockin’ in the Free World” and “Devil’s Sidewalk” at rallies and political events. 

The complaint was filed in a New York federal court, according to Rick Gershon, a representative for Young. 

Young is a frequent critic of Trump and has disapproved of the politician’s use of his music since he played “Rockin’ in the Free World” June 16, 2015 during an announcement he was running for president. Trump’s campaign has recently played Young’s songs during a July 3 speech at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota and a June 20 rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, according to Young.

While Young criticized the use of his songs at Trump events, he had previously said he would not pursue legal action. That changed in the last few months, with Young suggesting his changed his mind following Trump's deployment of federal agents to curb civil unrest following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in the custody of Minneapolis police in May.

'I am looking at it again': Neil Young says he's changed his mind about suing Donald Trump

Political campaigns can get licenses from performing rights organizations ASCAP and BMI to play songs at events without direct approval from artists. Musicians can get their songs removed from the available catalog of licensed songs (as BMI recently did when it took the Rolling Stones songs out of play following an objection from the band over Trump playing “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” at a rally).

"Imagine what it feels like to hear ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’ after this president speaks, like it is his theme song," Young wrote on his website. "I did not write it for that."

Canadian rocker Neil Young is officially a U.S. citizen: 'I'm proud to be a Canarican'

On July 3, Trump spoke at Mount Rushmore, where he condemned those attacking monuments across the country and announced he would sign an executive order to establish a "National Garden of American Heroes."

During his appearance, the president played Young's songs to the crowd.

"This is NOT ok with me," Young wrote on Twitter at the time. "I stand in solidarity with the Lakota Sioux & this is NOT ok with me."

Earlier this year, the Canadian-born artist announced that he became a citizen of the United States after having previously revealed that the 2020 election is what encouraged him to do so.

He said he wanted to "vote my conscience on Donald J. Trump and his fellow American candidates" because "we’ve got a climate emergency, and governments are not acting."

Tom Petty's family says it sent cease-and-desist letter to Trump after Tulsa rally featured 'I Won't Back Down'

Other artists have also complained about having their music associated with Trump's events. The family of the Tom Petty said that it had issued a cease-and-desist order after Trump used the song "I Won't Back Down'' in Tulsa.

Contributing: Charles Trepany; Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Neil Young posts copyright lawsuit against Trump campaign