Saturday, April 18, 2009

Don Henley Sues Congressman Over Unauthorized Song Use

I guess it's never too early for lawsuits over the 2010 U.S. election cycle to begin.

CNN reports that Eagles drummer and frontman Don Henley has filed a copyright infringement suit against Republican Congressman Charles DeVore, alleging unauthorized use of two Henley hit songs by DeVore in the congressman's campaign to unseat California Senator Barbara Boxer in 2010:

The suit filed Friday in federal court in California claims Charles DeVore is using Henley's hit songs "The Boys of Summer" and "All She Wants to Do Is Dance" without authorization.

The suit comes from two campaign videos that DeVore posted on YouTube that used Henley's music, according to the lawsuit.

In one of the videos, DeVore's campaign changed the words of "All She Wants to Do Is Dance" to lyrics that attacked Sen. Barbara Boxer, the lawsuit alleges.

The CNN article quotes Henley's position:

"Don Henley and Mike Campbell brought this action to protect their song, 'The Boys of Summer,' which was taken and used without their permission," Henley's spokesman said. "The infringers have vowed to continue exploiting this and other copyrighted works, as it suits them, to further their own ambitions and agenda. It was necessary to file a lawsuit to stop them."

The Congressman's campaign blog responds:

Rocker Don Henley’s legal threats have shut down our rough cut April Fool’s music video Obama lampoon based on “The Boys of Summer” on both YouTube and on Orange County’s alternative newspaper, the O.C. Weekly. We’re responding with a counter-claim, asserting our First Amendment right to political free speech in parody based on the Supreme Court ruling of Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc.

While the legal issues play out, it’s time to up the ante on Mr. Henley’s liberal goon tactics. By popular request, I have penned the words to our new parody song, an expose of Senator Barbara Boxer’s new cap-and-trade energy bill that will operate as a hidden tax that will also enrich a few people.

More on this litigation from the very thorough Copyrights and Campaigns blog - see All he wants to do is .....get himself sued?

The impugned DeVore video has apparently been removed by YouTube, replaced by the site's now-ubiquitous copyright infringement claim notice. TMZ has the details:

Henley demanded that YouTube take the video down and You Tube removed it, but YouTube reposted it after DeVore insisted it go back up. YouTube contacted Henley and said they would take it down only if Henley filed a lawsuit. Hence, the lawsuit.


Jackson Browne v. John McCain

In a related story, a U.S. District Court has allowed singer-songwriter Jackson Browne to continue his copyright infringement suit against John McCain over the former Republican Presidential candidate's use of Browne's classic, Running on Empty, in last year's unsuccessful election campaign. Music News reported on the February 2009 ruling:

The US District Court for the Central District of California has denied the motions of Senator John McCain and the Republican National Committee to stop the lawsuit filed by singer/ songwriter Jackson Browne for the unauthorized use of Browne's voice and song Running On Empty in a presidential campaign commercial. ...In a series of rulings on February 20, 2009, Judge Gary Klausner, rejected McCain's/RNC arguments that the First Amendment or copyright's fair use doctrine allows their unauthorized use of Browne's voice and song because the use occurred in a political campaign commercial.

Browne's attorney, Lawrence Iser,said; "The Court's decision is a solid victory for songwriters and performers and reflects an affirmation of their intellectual property rights and their freedom from being conscripted as involuntary endorsers of political candidates and campaign messages. We are happy that the Court recognized that persons and parties running for office are not entitled to violate an individual's intellectual property and publicity rights simply because they are engaged in political campaigns. We look forward to presenting Jackson Browne's case to the jury." You can read the Court’s Orders denying the RNC's motions here, here, here and here.

Also see the Washington Post on the Browne-McCain litigation.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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