Case Studies

Moses Mcabe: “Trumpocalypse”

Robbie Noble

The election of US President Trump has undoubtedly stirred buzz in the Internet world. Almost every day there is something in digital form about Trump and his latest comment in relation to another person or a tweet from him causing controversy.

Moses Mcabe is a solo musician and created the song “Trumpocalypse” that includes samples of Donald Trump’s voice from Internet clips. Moses would like to publish the song but wanted some legal advice about the samples.

Generally, you need to seek permission from the copyright owner to use their work so as to not infringe their copyright. However, there are exceptions to this rule, such as where the copied part is not substantial, or where the use is fair dealing, for example for parody or satire.  Moses was given advice by an Arts Law volunteer lawyer Elizabeth Burrows, Director of Influence Legal, in relation to whether his work fit within the scope of those exceptions and whether it would infringe the rights of copyright owners.

Moses' second query related to defamation. The song included well known phrases spoken by Trump, for example “beat Mexico”. As we provide advice on Australian law only, Arts Law was unable to advise Moses on US defamation law.  Elizabeth advised Moses of Australian defamation law principles including whether his song could be alleged to contain defamatory imputations.  Satires and parodies can sometimes be defamatory if a reasonable audience member could believe they are statements of fact.

Elizabeth said, “In many examples of satire or parody, defamatory imputations are alleged to arise because of the way that a person’s words have been changed, or juxtaposed to give a different meaning - such as in the well-known Pauline Pantsdown songs.  In this song, however, Donald Trump’s own words were used without being changed or juxtaposed, creating an interesting twist on previous situations."

Moses Mcabe’s proactivity in seeking advice allowed him to understand his legal rights to commercially exploit his song.