Eagles frontman Don Henley and his fellow songwriters Mike Campbell and Danny Kortchmar have settled their copyright suit against former GOP Senate candidate Chuck DeVore for an apology and payment of an undisclosed sum.
“This is a moral victory, and a victory for every copyright holder in the United States,” said Henley in an exclusive interview with Copyrights and Campaigns yesterday. “We set a precedent that will likely discourage this kind of behavior,” he added, referring to unauthorized uses of copyrighted songs by political campaigns. "I think this is going to have a very positive effect on the creators of music."
DeVore and co-defendant Justin Hart, the campaign’s Internet director, said in a statement, “We apologize for using the musical works of Don Henley, Mike Campbell and Danny Kortchmar without respect for their rights under copyright law. The court’s ruling in this case confirms that political candidates, regardless of affiliation, should seek appropriate license authority before they use copyrighted works.”
The lawsuit, which Henley had largely won at the district court, involved two videos made by the DeVore campaign which took the lyrics from Henley’s songs “The Boys of Summer” and “All She wants to do is Dance” and substituted in new lyrics attacking president Obama and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA). DeVore argued that the videos were fair use parodies of Henley’s songs, but the court held that the videos were satirical rather than parodic and rejected the fair use defense. Questions of willfulness and damages were still to be resolved. The court did rule for the defendants on the plaintiffs' Lanham Act claim, which alleged that DeVore's videos falsely associated Henley with the Republican's campaign. DeVore lost the June primary to former HP exec Carly Fiorina (R) for the chance to take on Boxer in November.
In his interview with C&C, Henley said that his motivation for the lawsuit was not financial or political, but “simply a matter of my copyrights being violated by music being used in a way it was never intended to be used.” Henley -- who has donated $9,000 to Boxer’s campaigns over the years but shuns the “liberal” label (“my political life is not that simple”) -- insisted that he did not target DeVore because of the state Assemblyman’s conservative views, and indeed objects to all political uses of his songs, regardless of the candidate or cause. Henley noted that he similarly complained after 2008 North Carolina Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Moore’s campaign used the song “Life in the Fast Lane” in a YouTube video without permission. The Moore matter was settled after the campaign voluntarily took down the video and admitted error, Henley said.
Asked what advice he has for other musicians and songwriters whose songs are used by campaigns without permission, he said, “When you think you’re right—when you know you’re right—when someone has stolen and misused your intellectual property, you have to do something about it.... I could have let this go, but I had to stand up and do something about it.”
Henley blasted all unauthorized uses of his music, whether by politicians or just amateurs making remixes, mash-ups, and similar unlicensed uses on sites like YouTube. “I don’t condone it,” he said of such practices. “I’m vehemently opposed to it. Not because I don’t like parodies or satires of my work. But it’s simply a violation of U.S. copyright law.” He added, “People in my age group generally don’t like it. Songs are difficult to write; some of them take years to write. To have them used as toys or playthings is frustrating.” Henley noted that he does not license his songs for commercials and only rarely does so for uses in films and television.
And Henley reserved particularly ire for YouTube, which he described as a “fence” for stolen intellectual property. “YouTube is one of the biggest violators or copyright laws in the world,” he said. “A tremendous amount of the content on YouTube is a copyright violation.... I’m not a fan of YouTube at all for their part in aiding and abetting copyright violations.” YouTube, which hosted the videos at issue in the DeVore case, took them down in response to DMCA notices, but DeVore filed counter-notices, and YouTube would have re-posted them but for the filing of the lawsuit. (YouTube, of course, recently won a major copyright decision in a case brought by Viacom and other copyright owners, including a putative class of music publishers, when a federal court ruled that the site was protected by the DMCA’s safe harbor for hosts of user-generated content.)
And Henley lamented what he views as the lack of response in Washington to rampant infringement on the Internet: “The politicians are not supporting creators on these issues, and it’s extremely disappointing.” He blamed what he views as the lack of action on the political power of Internet companies. “The people who create and run these sites like YouTube have a lot of clout,” he said.
“The Internet is slowly but surely killing the whole concept of copyright,” complained Henley. “I don’t like where it’s going.... The Internet is a wonderful thing but it also has a very dark side.”
I have an inquiry in to DeVore and will publish his thoughts should he wish to share them.