Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Let Us Now Praise Don Henley

I am not really  an Eagles fan.  I think the band peaked around the time of "Already Gone".  However I became a born again Don Henley fan after hearing "The Boys of Summer" and "The End of the Innocence".  That whole album hit me at the right time and it has become a favorite.

            I have become somewhat bemused  at the dispute between Don Henley and the band Okkervil River.  Apparently the group  posted a cover recording of Henley’s "The End of the Innocence" online as part of a free mix tape.  Henley, being a prudent copyright proprietor instructed his attorneys to send a demand letter requiring that the song be taken down.

            According to a quote from Australia's The Music, Okkervil River founder Will Sheff responded by saying "It's a real dick move man.  I guess he's an old‑fashioned guy who doesn't understand.  I mean the f..ing thing was free!  I don't really get what his issue with it was."

            The issue is apparent.  One artist thinks he can exploit another artist's intellectual property without compensation because it's being given away for free.  Henley as a copyright owner has exclusive right to distribute and perform his compositions and the right to stop the infringement of those compositions.  I actually applaud Henley for taking a principled  stance against the cheapening and devaluation of music.

            I have no problem with an artist deciding to give their own music away – I don't really agree with the premise but again, I don't have an issue with someone making an informed decision about their own copyrights.  However,  this band needs to respect Henley's property right and to get away from the notion that because you're not charging for your work somehow the other copyright participants should be supportive of your endeavors and not charge for their work.

            I don't really want to single out Okkervil River – they're an interesting band (and they have recorded with one of my heroes – Roky Erickson) but I am reminded of the current hue and cry from musicians over the streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora not paying artists and songwriters enough money.  This is a battle that has yet to be decided --but in order to advance the cause for artists trying to increase the  value of their work we have to do everything in our power to get rid of the notion that music is and should be free.  Don Henley has been a strong advocate for artists' rights for years and I believe his actions in this case demonstrate  a stand for  songwriters' rights; this is  anything but a "dick move".

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