R&B singer Frank Ocean has encountered legal trouble over his song “American Wedding” off of his debut 2011 mixtape Nostalgia, ULTRA, which utilizes the entire master recording of the Eagles’ 1977 hit “Hotel California” as its backing track.
Ocean posted on his personal blog yesterday, “Don henley(’s label—Rhino) is apparently intimidated by my rendition of Hotel California…” and went on to explain that he doesn’t have any plans to stop using the song and is considering performing it at Coachella in April.
In response to Ocean’s blog post, Eagles’ spokesperson, Larry Solters, released an official statement today:
“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.”
Under current copyright law, all forms of sampling without official permission from the copyright owner is illegal – regardless of whether or not any profits are made off of the song that utilizes the sample.