From relatively small crimes such as copyright or intellectual property law infringement to large crimes such as violating the United States Constitution, Trump has done them both. In October of last year, the Prince Estate requested that the Trump Campaign “cease all use” of Prince’s songs after Trump used them on pre-Election Day rallies. On October 15, 2018 The Prince Estate received a response from Trump’s Campaign that noted they would not play any of Prince’s music in connections with its activities going forward.
However, the Prince Estate reported that President Trump played Prince’s “Purple Rain” at a campaign event in Minneapolis on the evening of October 10, 2019. Clearly Trump cannot honor his legal agreements regarding copyright and intellectual property law. This adds yet another crime on top of his growing list that will hopefully be addressed throughout the impeachment process.
Whether it was a lack of oversight or communication, or a sheer disregard for copyright and intellectual property law, this offense should be treated with great care. Trump likes to speak very highly of himself and his ability to make deals. However, no deal was ever made with Prince before his death in April of 2016, nor was one made with the Prince Estate after his death.
Much of the Purple Rain movie was filmed at a nightclub that is across the street from the site of the rally, where protests broke out during a campaign event clearly designed for Trump supporters in the broader region. After the rally, Prince’s estate said that it “will never give permission to President Trump to use Prince’s songs.”
Prince’s life and career became famous in part because they defied definition. Throughout his life he expressed both support and criticism for a wide range of political and social views. However, before his untimely death in April, 2016, Prince made sure that the public knew where he stood on at least one issue.
Most recently, he performed a concert in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray (a young black man who died in police custody in Baltimore in 2015). At the 2015 Grammy Awards, Prince said that, “books, black lives, and albums still matter.” According to Rev. Al Sharpton Prince reportedly donated money to the family of Trayvon Martin (the black Florida teen who was fatally shot in Florida in 2012 by the now infamous George Zimmerman).
Although Prince never really expressed his political views publicly in interviews, his actions and his music are fairly unambiguous. His hit “1999” is an anti-Cold War anthem about a potential nuclear apocalypse that was written in 1982 during the height of the Cold War. “Sign O’The Times” covers the AIDS epidemic, the heroin crisis, and the violence of the era. His song “Baltimore” directly references the deaths of Freddie Gray and Michael Brown (who was fatally shot by police in Ferguson, MO). The list could go on, but these are just a few examples of how Prince expressed his political views via music.
The Trump Campaign’s continued use of Prince’s music despite receiving and agreeing to a cease and desist letter from the Prince Estate in 2018 is not only illegal, but a slap in the face to the legacy of Prince.