Earlier this month, presidential candidate Donald Trump received a cease and desist letter on behalf of Aerosmith frontman Stephen Tyler demanding that Trump stop using “Dream On” at campaign events. The letter sought to disclaim any political endorsement by Tyler, stating in part, “We are unaware of any public performance license granting Trump for President the right to perform ‘Dream On’ in connection with the Campaign.” Even if Trump has a performance license, however, various issues remain, including claims of false endorsement under the Lanham Act; infringement of Tyler’s publicity rights; tortious interference; and violation of privacy.

This is not the first time that Mr. Trump has been asked to refrain from using a popular song in his campaign. In June, Neil Young made a statement condemning Trump’s use of “Rockin’ In The Free World” at his campaign announcement. Moreover, this is hardly the first instance of a Republican candidate receiving backlash for using popular music: previous candidates on the receiving end of such complaints include the McCain-Palin ticket, Mitt Romney, and Michele Bachmann, to name a few.

However, taking his claims to court would not be a slam dunk for Tyler. Most complaints of these nature go nowhere, and the few that do generally settle quickly and quietly. Even as The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) seeks to warn candidates that a performance license might not cover all claims by a musician, the truth of the matter is that these claims rarely stick. The legal process is slow; even if Tyler were to pursue his claims, he would face an uphill battle in proving the existence of any genuine mistake amongst the public that he or Aerosmith have in any way endorsed Trump’s candidacy as evidenced by his song choice.

Lest we forget, Trump has proven himself to be a highly litigious man over the years. More likely than not, Tyler’s statement seeks to publicly disclaim any potential misconception that he endorses the Trump campaign rather than to genuinely threaten Trump with legal action. That being said, should Tyler choose to pursue his claims, myriad legal issues stand to be addressed that are undoubtedly of great interest to entertainers navigating the use of their work in a fast-paced political landscape. Not to mention, it would be a hell of a show.

Amanda Praestholm

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