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Chuck DeVore reaches settlement with Don Henley

By | Published on Friday 6 August 2010

Politician Chuck DeVore has reached an out of court settlement with Eagles frontman Don Henley over those parodies of two of the musician’s songs used by DeVore in a political campaign last year.

As previously reported, while politicians can play music at political rallies without specific artist permission, using a blanket public performance license, if they sync a track into a video posted on their websites – as an increasing number of political types seem to do – they need clearance from relevant artists, labels and publishers.

Unless, that is, the songs are reworked to be parodies of the artist, when there is a case for using a song without clearance under US copyright law’s fair use provisions. DeVore argued both his reworks of Henley’s songs were parodies, one mocking Henley himself, the other   his Democrat rival Barbara Boxer.

Back in June, US Judge James Selna said, in a provisional ruling, that use of the song reworked to be about Boxer could not be excused under the parody provision, because the person being parodied did not have any connection to the song being used. And while, in the song DeVore rewrote to make fun of Henley’s support for the Democrats, the person being parodied did have such a connection, the provision still didn’t apply because the Republican’s rework went “far beyond what’s necessary to hold the singer up to ridicule”.

Despite that ruling being only provisional, DeVore seems to have backed down. As part of an out of court settlement with Henley, the political man will hand over an undisclosed damages payment and has issued a public apology.

DeVore said in a statement: “The court’s ruling in this case confirms that political candidates, regardless of affiliation, should seek appropriate license authority before they use copyrighted works. Further, we regret all inaccurate, derogatory or disparaging remarks made about Mr Henley during the course of this dispute”.

Henley told copyright blog Copyrights & Campaigns: “This is a moral victory, and a victory for every copyright holder in the United States. We set a precedent that will likely discourage this kind of behaviour. I think this is going to have a very positive effect on the creators of music”.

He added that he was opposed to any reworking of his songs without permission, whether it’s by a politician or a twelve year old on YouTube: “I don’t condone it. 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 US copyright law. 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. The internet is slowly but surely killing the whole concept of copyright. I don’t like where it’s going… The internet is a wonderful thing but it also has a very dark side”.