Leonard Cohen Estate Considers Legal Action Against Trump Over “Hallelujah”

Representatives acting on behalf of the late Leonard Cohen are considering legal action against Trump. This after the convention used the track “Hallelujah”.

Impeached US president, Donald Trump, doesn’t exactly have a great track record when it comes to taking “no” as a response. This latest incident, according to the estate of Leonard Cohen, only adds to that incredibly long record. During the Republican National Convention, the Trump campaign used Cohen’s song twice. In one instance, it was played during a fireworks display that spelled out “Trump” and “2020”. American’s point out that the tacky display was more meant to assuage Trump’s ego more than anything else given how much the country is being weighed down by multiple crisis’.

In a Rolling Stones report, the Cohen estate apparently rejected the Trumps campaign request to use the song. From the report:

Following the Trump campaign’s use of a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” during the fireworks portion of the Republican National Convention Thursday night, the Cohen estate issued a statement criticizing the unauthorized use of the oft-covered classic. “We are exploring our legal options,” the estate warned on Friday.

“We are surprised and dismayed that the RNC would proceed knowing that the Cohen Estate had specifically declined the RNC’s use request, and their rather brazen attempt to politicize and exploit in such an egregious manner ‘Hallelujah,’ one of the most important songs in the Cohen song catalogue,” said Michelle L. Rice, legal representative of the Cohen Estate.

“Had the RNC requested another song, ‘You Want it Darker,’ for which Leonard won a posthumous Grammy in 2017, we might have considered approval of that song.”

Similarly, Sony/ATV Music Publishing president and global chief marketing officer Brian J. Monaco said in a statement, “On the eve of the finale of the convention, representatives from the Republican National Committee contacted us regarding obtaining permission for a live performance of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah.’ We declined their request.”

This is far from the first time the Trump used a song without permission to further his political career. Just last month, the Trump team used a rendition of Linkin Park’s song “In The End” in another campaign video posted to social media. After Linkin Park complained, the bands label issued a takedown notice of the video – a notice that Twitter complied with.

In June, Trump got hit with a DMCA takedown notice over a fake CNN video. The video used real footage shot by CNN and featured a fake CNN chyron which falsely said how a toddler is running away from a racist baby. After the DMCA takedown, the tweet has since been deleted. In the same month, Trump’s Twitter account received another copyright complaint over a campaign video. At the time, Trump and his supporters falsely claimed that Twitter removed the video because of “political bias”. It was later revealed that it was actually a DMCA notice that saw the video get taken down.

This latest instance more closely resembles the Linkin Park case. At the time, we pointed out that Linkin Park had a slam dunk case if it escalated into legal action. This is thanks to moral rights found in copyright law. Perhaps what would strengthen Cohen’s estate’s case is that representatives explicitly declined the request for use of the song. An argument could be made that this is clearly willful copyright infringement over top of the unauthorized use itself. If such an argument is successful in court, that could increase potential fines against the president in theory.

It’s worth pointing out that the estate says that they are exploring legal options rather than actually filing a copyright infringement complaint in court. We did look around today to see if they followed through on that contemplation, but didn’t find anything as of yet. Still, this only adds to the legal uncertainty Trump and his team faces at this point.

Further reading: Wikipedia page devoted to lawsuits surrounding Trump (it appears to be struggling to keep up with all of the developments)

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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