Twitter has removed a campaign video for Pres. Donald Trump‘s that is the subject of a copyright infringement lawsuit from “Electric Avenue” singer Eddy Grant first reported by Billboard on Tuesday (Sept. 1). The action came on the same day that attorney Brian Caplan of Reitler Kailas & Rosenblatt LLC filed the suit in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York, claiming that the clip denigrating Trump’s White House rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, illegally made use of Grants signature 1983 hit “Electric Avenue” without permission.
“Twitter’s take down of the infringing video does not diminish the damages that were already sustained by the wrongful conduct at issue,” Caplan tells Billboard in a statement. “President Trump tweeted the infringing video to millions of his followers, and the tweet was re-tweeted many times. President Trump can admonish China for not respecting U.S. intellectual property law while he simultaneously infringes U.S. copyright law on a regular basis.”
The suit is tied to a bizarre animated ad posted on Twitter by Trump’s campaign on Aug. 12 which depicts a cartoon version of Democrat Biden driving an old-fashioned train car while a speeding train that says “Trump Pence” and “KAG 2020” zips through a desolate town.
There is no context for the use of the song, which plays as the animated Biden hand-pumps his way through the empty streets in a handcar labeled “Biden President: Your Hair Smells Terrific” while random snippets of old quotes and interviews are played. The lyrics of the song, which include the lines, “Down in the streets there is violence/ And a lot of work to be done,” were written by the Black Guyanese-British singer in reaction to the 1981 race riots in Brixton, England. The track spent five weeks at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1983.
Caplan earlier told Billboard that another attorney for Grant, Wallace Collins III, sent a cease and desist letter to the president’s attorney asking that the 55-second video be taken down the day after the clip was posted. “You need to get a synchronization license when you sync music to video,” Caplan said, noting that Grant owns the master recording and was not asked for permission to use the song, which the suit stresses has a “valid and subsisting” copyright.
A spokesperson for the Trump campaign has not responded to multiple requests for comment.
According to the lawsuit, “defendants have infringed and continue to infringe Plaintiffs’ copyrights in the Composition and the Recording by creating, producing, distribution, promoting, advertising, performing by means of digital audiovisual transmission, and otherwise commercially exploiting the Infringing Video, and/or authorizing others to do the same, without Plaintiffs’ authority or consent.”
“This is copyright 101,” Caplan told Billboard after filing the suit. “You need to have a license and nobody in his campaign with a straight face could say he has the absolute right to do this.” The suit demanding a jury trial sought the disgorgement of profits, the payment of reasonable licensing fees and statutory damages, as well as a takedown of the video — which prior to its takedown had more than 352,000 likes and 95,000 retweets — and injunctive relief.
Trump has continued to play songs by artists including the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Neil Young, Guns ‘N Roses and many more acts despite the artists repeatedly requesting that he stop using their music at his rallies. Young sued the Trump campaign in early August for copyright infringement, citing unauthorized use of his songs “Rockin’ in the Free World” and “Devil’s Sidewalk” for what he termed “a divisive, un-American campaign of ignorance and hate.”
The claims in the suit include two counts of copyright infringement, with a judgement demand of actual damages of up to $150,000, a permanent injunction, impounding/destruction of all copies of the video and attorney’s fees.