The Trump campaign irked the family of the late Tom Petty when the campaign used Petty’s song “I Won’t Back Down” at President Donald Trump’s rally Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The family vented its displeasure in a tweet from Petty’s Twitter account that was signed by his daughters, Adria and Annakim, his ex-wife Jane Benyo and his widow Dana Petty.
“Trump was in no way authorized to use this song to further a campaign that leaves too many Americans and common sense behind,” the family tweeted.
— Tom Petty (@tompetty) June 21, 2020
“Both the late Tom Petty and his family firmly stand against racism and discrimination of any kind. Tom Petty would never want a song of his used for a campaign of hate. He liked to bring people together,” the statement said.
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“Tom wrote this song for the underdog, for the common man and for EVERYONE. We want to make it clear that we believe everyone is free to vote as they like, think as they like, but the Petty family doesn’t stand for this. We believe in America and we believe in democracy. But Donald Trump is not representing the noble ideals of either. We would hate for fans that are marginalized by this administration to think we were complicit in this usage.”
The statement said the family had “issued an official cease and desist notice to the Trump campaign.’
Petty, who died in 2017, had also opposed having the song played by former President George W. Bush and former Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona during their presidential campaigns, according to USA Today.
The Petty family’s objection to the song caused a buzz on Twitter.
Lighten up. Most of Tom Petty’s fans are my age or older and most of us are voting Trump.
— Mark Noonan (@Mark_E_Noonan) June 21, 2020
So… Tom wrote this song for everyone… except Republicans. Thanks for clarifying
— Anna Timmer (@VeritasSola) June 21, 2020
I’m 45 I Have Been A Life Long Fan Of Tom Petty For 40 Years , I’m A Trump Supporter Also , You Are Forgetting Trump Supporters Are Tom Petty Fans Also & The Fans Gave Tom Petty His Success , You Are Attacking Trump Supporters For Our Political Differences ! pic.twitter.com/IHMxkScNro
— Gabby COVID19 Survivor (@GabbyGustafsen) June 21, 2020
In its reporting on the Petty family’s objection, Deadline noted that musicians are often miffed when their music is used in a campaign context.
One of the problems, according to Deadline, is that campaigns can obtain “blanket public performance licenses” for songs from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. That gives campaigns the rights to use songs regardless of whether the individual performer agrees, Deadline reported.
Is the Petty family just playing petty politics?
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In a 2018 interview with the U.K. Guardian, Gandhar Savur, senior vice president for legal affairs at Rough Trade Publishing, said musicians do not have a lot of leverage to block their music form being used.
“If the venue that is holding a political rally has a ‘performance rights organization’ blanket license in place, such as, for example, through ASCAP or [Broadcast Music, Inc.], then a politician can get away with having a particular song playing in the background,” Savur said.
However, candidates who regularly use a particular song might be giving artists or their estates a window for a successful suit, Savur told the Guardian.
“Artists would argue that the politician is creating a ‘false endorsement’, ie giving the public the false impression that the artist endorses that politician or his or her campaign, by the repeated use of their song and voice,” he said.
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