Don Henley battling California Republican over use of song

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Don Henley battling California Republican over use of song

Tue Apr 21, 2009 @ 12:57AM PST

By Eriq Gardner

Don_Henley_637341 Add "Eagles" front-man Don Henley to the growing list of musicians who are angry that Republican politicians have used copyrighted songs for political use.

Henley is suing Charles DeVore, the California Republican running for Barbara Boxer's U.S. Senate seat, over the use of his songs "Boys of Summer" and "All She Wants to Do is Dance." The complaint, filed in California District Court, alleges that DeVore copied the compositions "note for note" to promote the candidate's "personal and professional agenda."

Previously, Jackson Browne sued John McCain for using the hit song "Running on Empty" in a campaign spot to ridicule Obama's energy plan. That case is still pending.

The big difference between the two cases is that McCain used the original song, allowing Browne to complain that McCain violated his rights of publicity by showcasing his voice. Here, DeVore's campaign is accused of re-writing the lyrics and posting the resulting product on YouTube. In essence, Henley's complaint relies on the notion that a court will protect the copyright of his composition — a bit of a tougher challenge.

The case also demonstrates YouTube's continued unwillingness to examine the merits of a copyright owner's request in the interest of avoiding any vicarious liability. 

Last autumn, McCain's campaign practically begged YouTube to crack down on "overreaching copyright claims" by committing to a full legal review of takedown notices. YouTube responded that it would be impractical to do such a thing, and invited legislators to do some lawmaking that would give them room from liability.

In the Henley complaint, YouTube allegedly got a takedown notice and responded by saying that it would remove the offending video if the musician filed a lawsuit within 10 days. Based on our search of the site for the video in question, it looks like YouTube lived up to its word and erased all trace of the clip.

We wonder if musicians are doing themselves harm by filing hard-to-win lawsuits at the cost of alienating powerful politicians who may hold sway over the future of copyright policy.

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The Hollywood Reporter
The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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