No, Queen Can’t Sue Donald Trump For Using Their Music
“Performing rights organizations exist to make life easier for both venues and artists… If you had to secure the rights to each song individually… you’d have to get a list of songs in advance and then spend hours, perhaps days, on the phone negotiating for rights with dozens of musicians. The process would be so cumbersome that most organizers wouldn’t bother, which would mean less money for musicians…
To solve this problem, copyright holders organized themselves into broad performing rights organizations…
… Securing licenses from these organizations is a standard step for a major political campaign… Queen’s “We Are the Champions” is part of the BMI catalog. And because BMI operates under close antitrust scrutiny, it’s required to license its music to all comers on a nondiscriminatory basis. That means the band doesn’t have the option of licensing its music to BMI with a “no Donald Trump” or “no Republicans” restriction. If the Republican Party paid for a BMI license, it can use any music Queen has licensed to BMI whether Queen likes it or not.”
— Writer Timothy Lee discussing whether or not Queen can sue Donald Trump or the Republican National Committee (RNC) for playing Queen’s “We Are the Champions” at last night’s Republican National Convention. Queen frontman Freddie Mercury was an HIV-positive queer from a Muslim country. Considering that the Republican party is rabidly Islamophobic and queerphobic, it’s no wonder that the Mercury’s surviving bandmates issued a tweet after last night’s convention stating, “An unauthorised use at the Republican Convention against our wishes.”
Lee adds that the Rolling Stones, Adele and Aerosmith have all asked the Trump campaign to stop using their music, but that musician tweets against conservative politicians using their music are more for sending political signals to fans rather than getting politicians to actually stop using their songs. “Filing a lawsuit is expensive and time-consuming,” Lee writes. “Posting an angry tweet is easy and free.”
Lee has asked the RNC if they purchased a license from BMI; they have yet to respond, but he (and we) will update our respective posts if they write back.