This subject normally crops up during the height of campaign season, but we have an early entry this year. I’m sure you’ve seen candidates (almost always Republicans) taking the stage at rallies while some high energy or theme-oriented song blasts over the crowd. Then, not long after, the artist or group that recorded the song begins complaining and demands that the politician stop using the music because they don’t want their art to be associated with such unseemly characters. That’s what happened after a recent Trump event where he took the stage to the tune of “Livin’ on the Edge,” by Aerosmith. This led band frontman Steven Tyler to send an apparently unofficial cease and desist letter to the White House. (Daily Wire)
Singer Steven Tyler, of the band Aerosmith, has issued a cease and desist letter to the White House demanding that Trump stop playing Tyler’s songs at his rallies.
Tuesday night, at a rally in West Virginia, the Trump team played the Aerosmith song, “Livin’ on the Edge,” as people filed into their seats. Even though the song was likely hard to hear over the noise of the crowd, Tyler’s attorney said the song was recognizable enough to imply that Tyler and his band approved of its use.
And Tyler isn’t happy about it, according to Variety.
The letter, sent Wednesday, cites the Lanham Act, which prohibits uses of intellectual property that carry with them “any false designation or misleading description or representation of fact … likely to cause confusion … as to the affiliation, connection, or association of such person with another person.”
This is apparently a new attitude for Tyler. If he has such distaste for Donald Trump, he certainly didn’t use to feel that way. One Twitter user quickly dug up a photo of the couple during happier times, along with the future First Lady.
Even if this newfound hatred of Donald Trump is sincere and not just posing for what he perceives as his fanbase, the demand may have no teeth to it. That’s a point which was brought up by Twitter user Jonathan Smith.
I think he or she is wrong. Providing one pays royalties, generally to BMI or ASCAP, one can play music that has been published. It's like saying "Trump can't buy my book from Barnes and Noble." Kind of a daft proposition if you think about it…
— Jonathan Smith (@jsmith0068804) August 23, 2018
Let me insert a bit of disclosure here. I’m a huge Aerosmith fan and have been since I was a teenager. I loved the “Toxic Twins” (as Tyler and his bandmate Joe Perry used to be known) and still listen to their music to this day. But with that out of the way, this complaint rings hollow in a couple of ways, primarily on the legal front. Most bands lease out the rights to their music through the big handling firms like BMI and ASCAP. (Aerosmith uses BMI.) If the music is available and someone who can afford to do so leases the rights, they can use it at their events, in their podcast, on their television show or wherever else. So the baseline rule is, if you don’t want people using your music, stop taking the money to lease it out.
Now, exceptions can be built into those agreements or modifications can later be added. This isn’t Aerosmith’s first run-in with Trump. They previously had BMI pull the leasing rights to “Dream On” entirely just so Trump couldn’t use it at campaign rallies. Obviously, the band and their agent should know better by now. Trying to cite the Lanham Act to force Trump to stop sounds like a workaround and weak one at that. In order to keep getting paid by BMI for people using the song but forbid Trump from using it under those rules, they would need to be able to prove that people might walk into a political rally which has nothing to do with the music industry and come away confused as to whether or not musicians who weren’t there and weren’t even mentioned by name somehow endorse the candidate.
Their best hope is that Trump basically tells them to go away and just stops using the music because they’ve made a public case out of it. That’s probably what a lot of more “normal” politicians would do simply to defuse the issue. Of course, we’re talking about Donald Trump here. His response might be to start playing it on Air Force One every time it lifts off.