[Author’s Note: You will be spared any strained efforts to include puns based on lyrics from the group’s song catalog.]
A court case has just opened up in Manhattan involving men who have been charged in a case brought by lawyers for rock drummer and singer Don Henley, from the legendary group The Eagles. The center of this case surrounds the lyrics from the multi-platinum “Hotel California,” but this is not a copyright issue being contested, which is just the start of the twists and nuances behind this case. The story is both lurid and fascinating.
On trial are three men: Glenn Horowitz, an antiquities and manuscript dealer; Craig Inciardi, a former curator for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; and memorabilia seller Edward Kosinski. The trio sport a variety of charges involving the possession of stolen material. The charges state the men have alternately sold the improperly acquired collection of notes and written lyrics created by Henley, with assistance from bandmate Glenn Frey.
The attempt was made to have the manuscripts placed in an auction with Sotheby’s, but the sale was halted once Henley announced the [allegedly] ill-gotten nature of the documents. Over a dozen pages that had been granted to the auction house ahead of the sale were confiscated, as well as a trove of over 80 pages that had been kept at the home of Kosinski. Charges of this nature do not often find their way to trial, but the complexities of the rights to these pages has seen this being brought before a court.
To start with none of the men have been charged with theft, but of being in possession of stolen property. Horowitz came into possession of the documents and then sold portions of them to Inciardi and Kosinski, yet when some of those papers were put up for auction by Inciardi in 2012 that is when Henley first stepped in to contest the rights. When the collection was primed to be put up for auction in 2016, Henley went on to declare wrongful ownership and Sotheby’s pulled them from bidding, and a police report was made by the rock star.
Lawyers for the accused have stated that there is no validity to the accusations, that the lyrics and notes had been properly acquired through sales and that Henley’s charge of them being stolen has no merit. Alternately, claims have been made the documents were given away by Henley freely, that they had been collected through various people connected to the band over years, and that they had even been discovered abandoned backstage after an Eagles performance. All of this intrigue hinges on the actions and testimony of a fourth individual not named in the case, Ed Sanders.
Photo by Wade Payne/Invision/AP
Sanders is an author who was working directly with the band in the late 1970s to write a full history of the Eagles. Sanders states he was paid a significant sum and worked for years on a 4-volume set, but this written history has never been published. Sanders contends he was given the manuscripts from Henley for the purpose of writing the book, as well as gathering others through various means over the time he spent with the band. He held these pages for a couple of decades with no claims made from Henley or other band members to have them returned, and ultimately turned to Horowitz, a known dealer in rare books and documents, to sell the contents.
Horowitz held the collection for a few years before himself selling them to Inciardi and Kosinski, and only then did Henley arrive with his claims of wrongful possession. Further casting this provenance into a gray area is that the prosecutors allege the defendants are shown, via emails, discussing how to formulate the history of the acquisition. In one of several instances, it was said that they would allude that Grey Frey had been the source of the lyrics sheets, and given his recent passing that would bring an end to any dispute.
On the prosecution side, there is also a thorny detail. Along with conspiracy, all three of the men are being charged with criminal possession of stolen property, with Horowitz also hit with an additional charge of attempted criminal possession of stolen property. And yet, none of the three have been charged with theft of the documents, nor has the originator, Ed Sanders, for that matter.
It will be interesting to see how a judge interprets a case where defendants are charged with possession of stolen property when said property had not actually been reported as stolen until after the fact. Two sales of these lyrics took place – and after more than 20 years of Sanders holding the rock history in his possession – before there was a claim made of illegally obtaining the documents.
We shall see how the ruling comes down from the judge, in the long run.
[Dammit! Apologies, it could not be helped.]