Prince Estate “[Purple] Rain[s]” on Donnie’s Parade

I don’t know what’s with Donnie and his insistence on playing music at his rallies by artists who are not too fond of him or his version of politics. A couple months ago, Steve Tyler from Aerosmith had his legal team issue a cease and desist against the White House for playing some of Aerosmith’s music at Trump rallies, and now the estate of the late, great Prince is pushing back against Trump and the White House for playing Purple Rain at a Trump rally in Mississippi.

It doesn’t appear as though the estate has gone so far as to issue a Cease and Desist against Trump yet, but they have certainly issued a statement expressing their displeasure with the use of “Purple Rain” at the trump rally, noting that they never gave him permission to use their song and demanding that he cease further use, immediately.

The Prince estate has demonstrated their commitment to honor Prince’s legacy and fight for his rights in the past, and this shouldn’t be any different. Donnie doesn’t appear to be one to back down either and seems to take on other’s demands as a challenge to do exactly the opposite of what they demand, so it will be interesting to see if “Purple Rain” makes another appearance at a future Trump rally, and how Prince’s estate will respond.

More importantly, let’s get into the law and policy behind this because what immediately comes to mind with the public performance of a song is the public performance organizations (PRO) and their blanket licenses authorizing the use of their catalogs for a fee. The licenses are generally issued to television stations, radio stations and other venues that play music to the public and they are allowed to play all of the songs that are within the PRO’s administration and control. So, my guess is wherever these rallies are being held, the venue holders do not have any blanket licenses authorizing the use of these songs, because if they did, it seems as though Donnie would be within his rights to have them being played in the background. Or maybe they do, which is why Donnie is unbothered by their statements to stop using their music. This could also be why Steve Tyler’s cease and desist didn’t address any copyright infringement allegations, but instead his allegations were rooted in trademark law and violations of his rights of publicity.

This might be a new issue to tackle by the music creators – having control over the moral compass with regard to their creative works. This right is personal to the author and it prevents others from altering the creator’s work, altering it, removing the author’s name from its work and it protects the overall integrity of the artist’s work. Other countries recognize “droit moral” (moral rights) laws with regard to copyrightable works, however, in the United States, this concept is only codified into law as it relates to works of visual art (paintings, sculptures, pictures).

Since Donnie seemingly has a vested interest in musicians rights when it comes to getting paid (as demonstrated by his signing of the Music Modernization Act), maybe he’ll be on board for this too. It’d effectively prevent him from doing what he continues to do in exploiting the works of artists at his rallies who do not support him. But, I’m pretty sure it’d go over his head if presented to him anyway.  

Stay tuned…

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