Earlier this week, Frank Ocean posted to his Tumblr that Don Henley was threatening to sue him if he played “American Wedding” (a track from Ocean’s mixtape, Nostalgia, Ultra that heavily samples The Eagles‘ “Hotel California”) ever again, but today modified the post to confirm that it’s Henley’s label, Warner Music, and not Henley himself that is threatening legal action. Ocean updated his Tumblr to say, “Don Henley(’s label — Rhino) is apparently intimidated by my rendition of Hotel California… He (They) threatened to sue if I perform it again. I think that’s f**kin awesome. I guess if I play it at Coachella it’ll cost me a couple hundred racks. If I don’t show up to court, it’ll be a judgement against me & will probably show up on my credit report. Oh well. I try to buy my sh*t cash anyway. They also asked that I release a statement expressing my admiration for Mr. Henley, along with my assistance pulling it off the web as much as possible. Sh*t’s weird. Ain’t this guy rich as f**k? Why sue the new guy? I didn’t make a dime off that song. I released it for free. If anything I’m paying homage.”
Apparently, however, Warner Music doesn’t see it the same way, with Larry Solters, a representative for the Eagles, telling SPIN, “Frank Ocean did not merely ‘sample’ a portion of the Eagles’ Hotel California; he took the whole master track, plus the song’s existing melody, and replaced the lyrics with his own. This is not creative, let alone ‘intimidating.’ It’s illegal. For the record, Don Henley has not threatened or instituted any legal action against Frank Ocean, although the Eagles are now considering whether they should. Any further questions regarding this matter should be directed to Warner Music Group as it is the entity that currently owns the master recording and made the contact with Frank Ocean’s representatives concerning his infringement of the master recording.”
While Ocean hasn’t actually made any money from sales of “American Wedding” (Nostalgia, Ultra was released as a free mix tape) it seems that Warner Music is ready to contest the use of “Hotel California” regardless. So Ocean’s not going to be forced to cough up any royalties for sales because there are none, although we question whether he’s liable to pay for performances of the song, given that he’s been paid for touring. Or worse yet — could Ocean be forced to delete “American Wedding” from his repertoire all together? Given that Nostalgia, Ultra was released over a year ago on Feburary 18th, 2011, it seems like Warner Music might have been a bit slow on the uptake — although given Ocean’s ever-growing profile and forthcoming official debut album, it seems like a pertinent time to curb the use of “Hotel California” especially with Ocean set to hit the tour circuit again, including his Coachella performance and mysterious Kanye West and Tyler The Creator collaboration.