The Piano Guys cashed in a fat check for playing at President Donald Trump’s Inauguration but they now face legal action for including a One Direction song in their set.
And not just any One Direction song.
One of their biggest songs. “What Makes You Beautiful”.
And you know what made it worse? It was their full-blown opener. One that shocked One Direction members as well as One Direction fans – who went online to stir some action. The general confusion was whether 1D has granted permission to use the song and whether they were in support of Trump.
And that wasn’t the case.
So now the songwriter, Savan Kotecha, is looking to take legal action against The Piano Guys. And he may actually have a case. Especially since the event was a political and controversial one.
They were absolutely NOT given permission to use WMYB at the inaugural ball. I will be looking into taking action.
— Savan Kotecha (@Savan_Kotecha) January 21, 2017
US Copyright law typically allows groups like the Piano Guys to cover songs. That includes popular works like ‘What Makes You Beautiful,’ which fall under a ‘compulsory license’ that doesn’t require the permission of the artist. Not the most respectful thing to do, but protected under law.
There are other reasons why the Piano Guys might be concerned. There are now exceptions to compulsory licenses, specifically for political engagements. A few months ago, publishing executive Monica Corton wrote about a little-known exclusion for political uses. That’s right: songwriters can actually prohibit their music from political rallies.
BMI, one of the largest performance rights groups in the US, recently created an exclusion clause to prevent certain politicians from using popular music. A string of artist complaints prompted the provision, including a series of battles between Trump and high-profile artists. Read more…
As if the One Direction selection wasn’t enough, The Piano Guys chose to cover ‘Fight Song,’ written by Rachel Platten. It was Hillary Clinton’s campaign anthem, and it had sparked a huge protest from Platten. And as expected, many fans now view this as a direct political attack towards Hillary by the Piano Guys.
For a group that wanted to heal a wounded nation, they certainly picked the worst songs to cover.
To make matters worse, the two songs don’t make that much for their performers and creators by they made The Piano Guys hundreds of thousands of dollars — each — for playing the Trump gig.