Judge Rejects Donald Trump’s Fair Use Argument In “Electric Avenue” Copyright Lawsuit

Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Judge Rejects Donald Trump’s Fair Use Argument In “Electric Avenue” Copyright Lawsuit

Sean Rayford/Getty Images

A year ago, Eddy Grant sued Donald Trump over the use of Grant’s 1983 hit “Electric Avenue” in one of Trump’s online campaign videos depicting a cartoon Joe Biden driving an old-fashioned train car. Today a New York federal judge ruled that Trump can’t get out of the lawsuit.

The Hollywood Reporter reports that US District Court Judge John Koeltl has rejected a “fair use” argument from Trump’s legal team. Trump’s motion to dismiss argued, “The purpose of the Animation is not to disseminate the Song or to supplant sales of the original Song. Here, a reasonable observer would perceive that the Animation uses the Song for a comedic, political purpose — a different and transformed purpose from that of the original Song.”

Koeltl replied that Trump “misapprehends the focus of the transformative use inquiry” and that his use of “Electric Avenue” constitutes “wholesale copying of music to accompany a political campaign ad.” The judge continued, “While it is true that the animation is partisan political commentary and the song apparently is not, the inquiry does not focus exclusively on the character of the animation; rather, it focuses on the character of the animation’s use of Grant’s song.”

Citing a recent decision related to Andy Warhol’s work, Koeltl wrote, “where a secondary work does not obviously comment on or relate back to the original or use the original for a purpose other than that for which it was created, the bare assertion of a ‘higher or different artistic use,’ is insufficient to render a work transformative.” His full decision is available here.

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