The “Hotel California” lyrics theft case has been dismissed. Sorry, Don Henley.

Decades ago, Don Henley handed over about 100 legal pad pages of notes on the creation of the Hotel California album, a record that would eventually become the third-biggest selling of all time in the US. They went to a writer named Ed Sanders who was working on an Eagles biography that was never finished or published.

That writer, believing that he was given the material and thus owned it, sold them to Glenn Horowitz, a rare book dealer in New York. Horowitz later flipped the notes to Craig Inciardi, a former curator at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and rock memorabilia specialist Edwar Kosinski. Henley, probably understanding that rock artifacts like this can be sold for big money at auction these days, decided he wanted the notes back. His legal team presented a case to prosecutor is NYC who then charted all three men with conspiracy to possess stolen property.

Everything finally went to a non-jury trial this week. Henley’s people believed that the chain of possession of these notes was suspect and that the three member created a fake provenance that would establish their ownership and thus their ability to sell the material at auction. The defendants maintained that they did nothing wrong and the documents weren’t stolen. They were the legal owners. (Interestingly, Ed Sanders was not charged nor was he called to testify at the trial.)

Suddenly, in mid-trial, all charges were dropped by NY prosecutors. They found themselves agreeing with the defense that everyone had been blindsided by 6,000 pages of notes between Henley and his people that were entered into evidence late in the process. For some reason, Henley and his lawyers decided to waive their attorney-client privilege, bringing those 6,000 pages into evidence.

Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Aaron Ginandes said this: “These delayed disclosures revealed relevant information that the defense should have had the opportunity to explore.” Although this information hasn’t been made public yet, it appears that the documents pointed at new potential witnesses and also had everyone questioning about testimony from Henley and others. This comes in addition to the defense’s contention that Henley’s side (a) never mentioned the book deal and (b) invented a story about a burglary.

Case over.

Or is it? Henley’s lawyer says things will now move from the criminal justice system to the civil courts. Here comes a lawsuit.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38165 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

One thought on “The “Hotel California” lyrics theft case has been dismissed. Sorry, Don Henley.

  • As talented as Don Henley is as a singer and songwriter, the guy is an asshole. What other artist has a dedicated team of people working for him, scouring the internet for any unauthorized use of his songs? You can’t even post yourself singing a cover of “Hotel California” on YouTube. You know, Don, it’s not our fault that back in the 70’s and 80’s when you were making all that money, you blew most of it on a lavish lifestyle, booze, cocaine and hookers. Now you’re nothing but a money-grubbing jerk and a has-been.


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