Trump's Nickelback tweet is a reminder that copyright trumps all

Daniel Roberts
Senior Writer

On Wednesday afternoon, President Trump tweeted out a clip of the music video for the 2005 Nickelback song “Photograph.”

The (in)famous song begins, “Look at this photograph,” and in the video, lead singer Chad Kroeger holds up a photograph. In Trump’s doctored version, the photograph in the music video was a picture of Joe Biden and his son Hunter with two other men, one of whom was labeled, “Ukraine gas exec.” It was just one of Trump’s many tweets over the last week accusing Biden of corruption and railing against the ongoing impeachment inquiry prompted by a whistleblower complaint.

By Thursday morning, the tweet had no video. The video had been “removed in response to a report from the copyright holder.” Warner Music Group, which holds the copyright to the Nickelback video, sent Twitter a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown notice. The takedown notice links to Trump’s tweet and to the band’s official music video, which has 180 million views on YouTube.

Yes, Nickelback hit the president with a copyright claim. And it worked, fast.

Because of the DMCA claim, the video is missing from any tweet that had it, including from Eric Trump, who tweeted it on Wednesday night three hours after his father, adding, “Classic,” and Rudy Giuliani, who tweeted it on Thursday well after it had already been hit with the copyright claim.

The White House even tried uploading the video to its official YouTube page on Thursday, and it is now gone from there, too.

This has happened to Trump before, quite recently, and from the very same company. In April, Warner Bros sent Twitter a takedown notice for a video Trump tweeted that used the score from “The Dark Knight Rises.” Twitter removed the video. (Warner Music Group declined to comment to Yahoo Finance.)

This story is funny to many people, but also has actual business implications: while 2020 presidential candidate Kamala Harris is publicly asking Twitter to suspend President Trump’s account, and while liberals on Twitter complain on a daily basis that Twitter does not remove hateful Trump tweets when it ought to, nothing is faster and more effective than a copyright claim.

Photo by: Raoul Gatchalian/STAR MAX/IPx 2017 2/22/18 NICKELBACK unveils exclusive memorabilia case at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

It is a lesson that the fitness bike maker Peloton (PTON) could have learned before it went public last week. That company is facing a $350 million lawsuit for using songs in its member classes that it did not pay to license. The lawsuit, which cites songs by major artists like Taylor Swift, Britney Spears, Bruno Mars, and Lizzo, accuses Peloton of being a “textbook willful infringer.” The stock is down 17% since its debut.

Trump has faced other copyright claims during his presidency and during his candidacy, as well as less legalistic requests from artists not to use their songs in his rallies, including from Pharrell, Adele, The Rolling Stones, and Neil Young.

It’s worth noting that some people in the music industry (led by a group of composers tired of being sued for sampling popular songs in new songs) feel infringement claims have gotten out of control, and want to peel back copyright restrictions on songs from before 1978. Surprise, surprise: the Trump administration is on board with that effort.

Daniel Roberts is a senior writer and on-air host at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

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