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Tentative Summary Judgment Ruling in Henley v. DeVore

Tentative Summary Judgment Ruling in Henley v. DeVore

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Published by Ben Sheffner

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Published by: Ben Sheffner on Jun 02, 2010
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Unless otherwise noted, the facts the Court recites are undisputed.
“Deadhead” refers to a fan of the Grateful Dead, a rock band popular during the 1960’sand 70’s. See United States v. Washington, 106 F.3d 983, 1017 (D.C. Cir. 1997).1
Don Henley, et al. v. Charles S. DeVore, et al., SACV 09-0481 JVS (RNBx)Tentative Order re Motions for Summary JudgmentMusician Don Henley (“Henley”) claims that politician Charles DeVore(“DeVore”) infringed the copyrighted songs “The Boys of Summer” and “All SheWants to Do Is Dance” with two political advertisements featuring the songs “TheHope of November” and “All She Wants to Do Is Tax.” DeVore claims fair use.The Court also considers whether DeVore’s songs falsely suggest endorsement byHenley.I.BACKGROUNDPlaintiff Henley is world-famous, Grammy-winning, multi-platinum-album-selling songwriter and recording artist.
He is a founding member of the Eagles,credited with one of the best-selling albums of all time. He has also enjoyed asuccessful solo career, releasing the multi-platinum album Building the PerfectBeast in 1984. Two of the songs on the album, “The Boys of Summer” and “AllShe Wants to Do Is Dance,” were top-ten hits at the time.“The Boys of Summer” (“Summer”) was written by Henley and Plaintiff Mike Campbell (“Campbell”), a founding member of Tom Petty and theHeartbreakers, and the two jointly own the copyright to the song. The song isprimarily about the singer’s nostalgia for a past summer romance, though theDefendants contend that the song has a political theme, noting the line where thenarrator “saw a DEADHEAD
sticker on a Cadillac,” which they arguedemonstrates a nostalgia for liberal politics of the 1960’s. The lyrics to “Summer”are attached in Appendix A.“All She Wants to Do Is Dance” (“Dance”) was written by Plaintiff DannyKortchmar (“Kortchmar”), a respected songwriter, producer, and recording artist.Kortchmar is the beneficial owner of the copyright to “Dance.” The song depicts
YouTube is a publicly-available website which hosts videos posted by third parties likethe DeVore campaign.2
an American couple on a trip to an unspecified foreign country in the midst of violence and unrest. The woman, however, is either oblivious to or ignores thetumult and simply wants to dance and party and “get down.” The Defendantsinterpret the song as being a comment on American foreign policy in LatinAmerica and the American public’s apathy towards the situation. The lyrics to“Dance” are attached in Appendix B.DeVore is a California assemblyman currently seeking the Republicannomination for one of California’s U.S. Senate seats. Justin Hart (“Hart”) is theDeVore campaign’s director of internet strategies and new media. His primaryduty is to conduct online-based fundraising activities and otherwise get publicityfor the DeVore campaign. He does this through various means, including creatingvideos to be posted on DeVore’s website and on YouTube.
Hart’s compensationis directly tied to the amount of funds he brings in.This case arises from two online videos produced by DeVore and Hart forDeVore’s campaign. The first contains the song “The Hope of November”(“Hope”), a play on “Summer.” DeVore was inspired to create the song in March2009 after seeing a Barack Obama (“Obama”) sticker on a Toyota Prius, whichreminded him of the “DEADHEAD sticker” lyric from “Summer.” DeVoreproceeded to revise the lyrics of “Summer” to create a song that pokes fun atObama, Nancy Pelosi (“Pelosi”), and Obama’s supporters. The lyrics of “November” are attached below in Appendix A.Hart and DeVore decided to produce a campaign video based on the“November” lyrics. Hart downloaded an instrumental-only, karaoke version of “Summer” which simulates the song’s instrumental track. Hart supplied the vocalsfor “November,” attempting to emulate Henley’s style. He then produced thevideo by compiling images of Obama, Pelosi, and a few others, and synchronizedthe “November” track with the video. This video was posted to YouTube andother online sites sometime in March 2009.Once Henley got wind of the Defendants’ online video in early April 2009,he sent a notice to YouTube under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act
Plaintiffs have voluntarily dismissed their Eighth Claim for Relief, alleging violation of the California Unfair Competition Law, California Business and Professions Code section 17200et seq. Defendants have, in turn, voluntarily dismissed each of their six counterclaims. (Defs.’Mot. Br. 1 n.1.)3
(“DMCA”) requesting that the video be removed, and YouTube promptlycomplied. Only a few days later, DeVore sent a DMCA counternotification toYouTube requesting that the video be reposted on the grounds that it constitutedparody. Meanwhile, DeVore decided to use a second Henley song for hiscampaign. This time, DeVore and Hart created a campaign video featuring thesong “All She Wants to Do is Tax” (“Tax”), their take on “Dance.”“Tax” was written by DeVore, who modified the lyrics of “Dance” tolampoon Barbara Boxer (“Boxer”), one of California’s Democratic Senators, andto criticize cap-and-trade and global-warming polices. Just as with “November,”Hart used an instrumental-only track of “Dance,” supplied his own vocals usingDeVore’s lyrics, and paired the song with a video he created using a variety of online images and videos of, among others, Boxer, Al Gore, and Disney characterScrooge McDuck. The Defendants posted the video to YouTube on or about April14, 2009. On April 17, 2009, this action was filed by Henley, Campbell, andKortchmar, alleging copyright infringement and violation of the Lanham Act.The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment, each seekingrelief on Plaintiffs’ First through Sixth Claims for Relief for direct, vicarious, andcontributory copyright infringement of each song and Henley’s Seventh Claim forRelief for false endorsement under the Lanham Act.
II.LEGAL STANDARDSummary judgment is appropriate only where the record, read in the lightmost favorable to the nonmoving party, indicates that “there is no genuine issue asto any material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matterof law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,323-24 (1986). Summary adjudication, or partial summary judgment “upon all orany part of a claim,” is appropriate where there is no genuine issue of material factas to that portion of the claim. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a), (b); see also Lies v. FarrellLines, Inc., 641 F.2d 765, 769 n.3 (9th Cir. 1981) (“Rule 56 authorizes a summaryadjudication that will often fall short of a final determination, even of a single

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