Why Donald Trump Can Keep Using Queen's 'We Are The Champions'

July 27, 2016Media Mention
The Street

When Jackson Browne sued John McCain in 2008 for using his hit song Running on Empty in a campaign video, he was making a stand for musicians and songwriters who have long complained that politicians shouldn't be allowed to use their copyrighted material without direct permission.

That Browne, a longtime liberal activist with a particular interest in environmental issues, called out McCain, the conservative Arizona senator who had backed the Iraq invasion, was also part of the story. Citing federal trademark law, Browne argued that McCain's use of his song falsely implied an endorsement from the singer/songerwriter.

William Hochberg, a media lawyer at Los Angeles law firm Greenberg Glusker, counters that when it comes to a candidate's political rally, a song such as We Are The Champions is playing a greater role in that event than, say, background music at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue.

After all, this is politics, Hochberg said, and listeners could equate Trump's use of We Are the Champions or McCain's use of Running on Empty with a tacit endorsement or loose affiliation between artist and politician.

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