Don Henley’s Lawsuit Exposes Dirty Laundry Over ‘Hotel California’ Lyrics

In Manhattan, a court case was just opened involving men charged with a case brought forward by the lawyers of rock drummer and singer Don Henley from The Eagles. This case revolves around the lyrics of “Hotel California,” a multi-platinum album. However, this is not an issue of copyright. This story is both fascinating and lurid.

Three men are on trial: Glenn Horowitz is an antiquities dealer and manuscripts specialist; Craig Inciardi was a former Rock & Roll Hall of Fame curator; and Edward Kosinski, a memorabilia vendor. Three men are facing charges related to the possession of stolen materials. According to the charges, the men sold Henley’s lyrics and notes that were improperly obtained with the help of bandmate Glenn Frey.

Henley had attempted to place the manuscripts in an auction at Sotheby’s. However, the sale was stopped when Henley revealed that the documents were [allegedly] illegally obtained. The auction house was given over a dozen pages in advance of the sale. They were also confiscated along with a cache of more than 80 pages kept by Kosinski. The charges of this kind are not usually brought to court, but because of the complexity of the rights of these pages, this case was.

First of all, none of the men have been charged with theft but with possession of stolen property. Horowitz had the documents and sold some to Inciardi, Kosinski, and others. Yet when Inciardi put them up for auction in 2012 Henley was the first to challenge the rights. Henley declared wrongful ownership when the collection was about to be auctioned in 2016. Sotheby’s pulled the items from the bidding and the rock star filed a police complaint.

Lawyers representing the accused claim that Henley is wrong to accuse the lyrics and notes of being stolen. They say that they were acquired legally through sales. Henley may have given the documents away freely or collected them over the years through different people associated with the band. They could even be found abandoned after a performance. Ed Sanders, a fourth person not named in this case, is at the center of all of the intrigue.

Sanders, an author, worked directly with the Eagles in the late 70s to create a complete history. Sanders claims he worked on a four-volume history for many years and was paid a large sum of money, but it has never been released. Sanders claims that Henley gave him the manuscripts for the book and that he also collected others over his time with the band. He kept these pages for two decades without Henley’s or any other band member’s asking to return them. He then turned to Horowitz a well-known dealer in rare documents and books to sell their contents.

Horowitz had the collection for several years before selling it to Inciardi & Kosinski. Henley only came in with his claim of wrongful ownership after that. The prosecutors claim that defendants were shown via emails discussing how to form the history of the purchase. This further casts this provenance in a grey area. It was stated that in one instance, they would mention that Glenn Frey, who had recently passed away, was the source of the song sheets. This would put an end to any disputes.

There is a tricky detail on the prosecution’s side. Horowitz is also charged with attempted criminal possession. The three men have not been charged with the theft of these documents. Nor has Ed Sanders.

It will be interesting to see how a court interprets a situation where defendants have been charged with possessing stolen property, but the property was not reported stolen until later. After Sanders had a rock history for more than 20 years, there were two sales of the lyrics.

In the end, we will see what the judge decides.