Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Don Henley Does Not Have a Peaceful Easy Feeling About YouTube

Musician Don Henley has won a legal battle against Chuck DeVore, a California politician who used a couple of Eagles songs in campaign videos last fall without Henley’s permission.

So that should make Henley happy, right?

Sorta. Henley is still worked up about YouTube, which hosted the videos during DeVore’s race for California’s U.S. Senate seat. The Google (GOOG) site took the clips down after it received a copyright claim, but that isn’t enough to appease Henley, who describes the site as a “fence.”

“YouTube is one of the biggest violators of copyright laws in the world,” Henley told Ben Sheffner, an attorney at GE’s (GE) NBC Universal, who also runs his own “Copyrights & Campaigns” blog. “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.”

That used to be a commonplace view of YouTube, but over time the site has reached a detente with many copyright owners: It will work with them to keep their stuff off the site, if that’s what they want. But it would very much like for them to keep their stuff on its site and figure out a way to sell ads against it.

Not good enough, says Henley. More from his chat with Sheffner:

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.”

It’s unclear what Henley wants Washington to do, but he may well have to be content grinding his teeth.

If YouTube’s recent legal victory against Viacom (VIA) holds up, the site–and many others–will be legally required to do much less to appease copyright owners than it has been doing to date. That doesn’t mean it will do as little as possible, of course–it’s good business for YouTube to make big media companies happy. But it gives the site a lot more leeway.

So perhaps Henley will have to take some advice from bandmate Joe Walsh (or is he a former bandmate? I don’t track the Eagles lineup that closely) and appreciate the benefits of success:


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work