We hadn't covered the Chuck DeVore/Don Henley legal battle, because it was just yet another in a long line of "musician suing politician for using song" lawsuit that we've seen so much of lately. DeVore tried to convince the world that his use of Henley tunes (with different words) to make fun of his political opponent, Barbara Boxer, were covered as parody. But, the court pointed out that it wasn't parodying Henley's works, so it was infringing. Either way, the two have now reached a settlement
, which gave Henley an opportunity to start acting like an angry old man upset at the kids on his lawn when an interview about the legal victory
turned to Henley's views on YouTube and mashups and such:
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."
Hmm. Copyright is supposed to be the means, not the end. You shouldn't be upset at something just because
it's copyright infringement. Often, that copyright infringement can be tremendously valuable to the original creator. Saying that you're upset just because it's infringement makes little sense. It's an emotional response, rather than a rational response. Besides, copyright law's stated purpose is to "promote progress," and if something is infringing, but in the process promotes progress, is Henley still against it because it "violates US copyright law?" That's silly.
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.
Here's the thing (and it's an important thing that so many content creators have trouble grasping): Once your work is out there, how people react to it is their decision
. I'm not talking about copyright infringement here. I'm talking about just the basic consumption part. Many, many people hear Henley's songs and think of them as "playthings," because they're pop hits. That's their right. Whether or not people think of Henley's music as being a "plaything" is not for Henley to decide -- nor does it harm Henley. Some people really love his music, and others don't. But it doesn't harm or devalue Henley's work that some people find his tunes bubblegum. Yet, he gets upset when people who actually do
like his music, and want to do new and creative things with it (and even introduce new audiences to it), and actually go through with it? That makes no sense. Why would you get upset with people inspired to do more with your music, while not being upset at all the people who really
view the music as a toy or a plaything?
And Henley reserved particular 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.
What can you say? The guy is very confused about copyright law. Does he get mad at the companies that make mp3 players too for supposedly "aiding and abetting copyright violations"? How about everyone who makes computers? Or broadband companies? Or, the record labels themselves who released the music in a way that could be copied? At some age, people are supposed to learn to actually put the blame on people who do stuff, not the tools they use.
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.
Yeah, I did a doubletake. Are we talking about the same Washington here? The one that is practically overrun by recording industry and Hollywood lobbyists, but where the constant lament is that Silicon Valley has very little presence? The same Washington that has only expanded copyright law in one direction -- in favor of the record labels? The same Washington that keeps updating copyright law at the behest of the recording industry? Because what Henley sees is not reality. The Washington he sees does not exist.