'Electric Avenue' Singer Sues Trump Over Twitter Video

Law360 (September 1, 2020, 7:44 PM EDT) -- The singer behind the song "Electric Avenue" is suing President Donald Trump and his reelection campaign for using the iconic 1980s track without permission in a social media video attacking Joe Biden.

Weeks after Neil Young sued the Trump campaign for playing "Rockin' in the Free World" at rallies, Eddy Grant filed his own copyright infringement lawsuit Tuesday in Manhattan federal court over a video Trump shared on Twitter on Aug.12.

"Despite plaintiffs having sent defendants a letter the very next day objecting to defendants' infringement and demanding the removal of the infringing video … defendants have continued to willfully and wrongfully infringe plaintiffs' copyrights," Grant wrote. "Neither the president nor the [campaign] is above the law."

The video at issue features a high-speed red "Trump" train outpacing a handcar driven by Biden, with audio of out-of-context excerpts from Biden speeches being played over Grant's 1982 hit. Tweeted out to Trump's 85 million followers, the video has been played 13.8 million times as of Tuesday.

Grant's lawsuit is far simpler than Young's case. While the public performances of songs at rallies are complicated by a complex system of automatic licenses, the use of copyrighted music in a web video requires a direct license from rightsholders.

"None of the plaintiffs, nor any agent on their respective behalves, has licensed any rights in the composition to either Mr. Trump or the [campaign], or otherwise consented to defendants' use of the composition in connection with the infringing video," Grant wrote.

A spokesman for the Trump campaign did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday.

"Electric Avenue" was released in 1982 but became an international hit in 1983. Grant reportedly wrote the track in response to the 1981 Brixton riot, naming the song after a road running through that London neighborhood.

In Tuesday's complaint, Grant said he had expressed "dismay" at learning the song had been used in a pro-Trump video.

Grant and Young aren't the first musicians who have objected to being associated with the president's politics. Guns N' Roses, Pharrell, Rihanna and, most recently, the estate of Tom Petty have all complained about the use of their music.

Grant is represented by Brian D. Caplan, Robert W. Clarida and Julie B. Wlodinguer of Reitler Kailas & Rosenblatt LLC.

Counsel information for Trump and the campaign — Donald J. Trump For President Inc. — was not immediately available.

The case is Grant et al. v. Trump et al., case number 1:20-cv-07103, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

--Editing by Kelly Duncan.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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Case Information

Case Title

Grant et al v. Trump et al


Case Number

1:20-cv-07103

Court

New York Southern

Nature of Suit

Copyright

Judge

John G. Koeltl

Date Filed

September 01, 2020

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