Republican: Using Don Henley songs in commercials is parody of 'Hollywood and entertainment elite'

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Republican: Using Don Henley songs in commercials is parody of 'Hollywood and entertainment elite'

Mon Apr 12, 2010 @ 11:52AM PST

By Eriq Gardner

Chuck_devore_speaking Republican senatorial candidate Chuck DeVore argues in a new court filing that he should be able to use songs by Don Henley in campaign commercials because Hollywood elite are ripe for parody.

DeVore is defending a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by Henley for taking "Boys of Summer" and "All She Wants to Do is Dance," rewriting the lyrics, and posting them on YouTube. 

On Friday, DeVore filed papers in support of a motion to dismiss the case, predicated on the theory that his altering the songs was "fair use."

Other politicians have tried this line of defense before. John McCain invoked fair use when he took one of Jackson Browne's hit songs and put it in one of his commercials when he ran for president. McCain later settled the case and apologized. 

In the midst of a race to unseat California Democrat Barbara Boxer, DeVore seems to have no intention of backing down. In fact, he's attempting to score some political points in the process.

In Friday's filing, DeVore's lawyers underscore parody as a form of fair use and claim that the intended target of parody doesn't have to be the song's author. Instead, DeVore tells the court to focus on context:

"The context here is that Chuck DeVore is a candidate for the United States Senate in California, a 'blue' state, and one dominated by the entertainment industry...For Mr. DeVore and many of his supporters, by challenging Senator Barbara Boxer, and the Democratic establishment more generally, Mr. DeVore necessarily challenges the Hollywood and entertainment elite, which with only a handful of exceptions has been outspoken and financially generous in its support of liberal issues and Democratic politicians."

The complaint then points out that Don Henley is one of the more prominent entertainment celebrities to support Boxer. He says his decision to parody Henley's songs wasn't "accidental nor arbitrary," saying he could have used songs by Lady Gaga or Beyonce if he wanted to generate more media coverage. Instead, he chose Henley to make a political point.

The point? Henley and other celebrities who fought to get Barack Obama elected display a naive affection for liberal politicians who espouse broken promises and failed policies. Why listen to them?

Over the past few years, complaints by entertainers over political use of their copyrighted content has multiplied. DeVore says his songs are transformative. However the court rules, the lawsuit will prove equally as such. 

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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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