With the rise of social media and “personal branding,” everyone has begun to recognize the need to protect their name as part of their own brand. For many people, not only does it control opportunities for income, but it also reflects their reputation in general and their standing in the community.
But the need to protect one’s good name has been around for centuries and celebrities (such as actors, musicians, writers, etc.) have been working to control how their names are used since long before the internet came on the scene. The members of the band, the Eagles, have been especially careful about protecting their names from misappropriation. They’ve spent decades working hard to build and maintain their reputations and they’re not about to let anyone else infringe on all that hard work – and possibly compromise it in the process.
Among the lawsuits, the band members have filed to protect their names is one filed by Don Henley against Duluth Trading Co. The clothing maker allegedly put out an email ad for their Henley T-shirts that made Henley’s name into a pun by telling customers to “Don a Henley and Take It Easy,”
The last part of the phrase refers to the song, “Take It Easy,” which became the band’s breakthrough hit song. However, although Henley did co-write a number of songs for the famous band, “Take It Easy” was not one of them. Instead, Glenn Frey and Jackson Browne wrote the song and Frey sang it.
Henley responded by suing the clothing company for using his name without his permission. The complaint also pointed out that, over the years, Henley has been fastidious about protecting his rights to his name, and so Duluth Trading Co. should have known better than to use Henley’s name without his permission. The complaint sought an injunction against the clothing company using his name, as well as damages and any other relief the court may deem appropriate.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that Henley, who has worked so hard to maintain his good name, is equally protective of his work. Not long before filing the lawsuit against Duluth Trading Co., Henley publicly criticized Frank Ocean, the lead singer of Okkervil River, for allegedly misappropriating his hit solo, “The End of Innocence.”
Ocean rewrote the lyrics of the song before recording it and distributing online for free. Although one would expect a fellow musician to understand how the copyrighting of music works (including the melody itself, in addition to the lyrics), Ocean wrote an op-ed for Rolling Stone in which he explained his thought process for changing the chorus and the last verse of the song. Ocean wrote that he considered including the changed lyrics in his op-ed, but wasn’t sure if even doing that much would get him in trouble, so he refrained from doing so, took the song offline, and expressed his regret that he could not continue to share it, since he happens to like it and is proud of how he reworked the lyrics.
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