Thursday, April 30, 2015

Case Study No. 1928: William Shelley

Eagles Sue Concert Footage Archivist Over Bootleg Performances
Don Henley and Glenn Frey of the Eagles have sued a concert footage archivist, accusing the man of violating their copyright after screening unlicensed Eagles footage at a Connecticut theater in October. In a suit filed in Brooklyn Federal Court, lawyers for Frey and Henley accuse William Shelley of charging admission to show a bootlegged concert of the "Hotel California" rockers, the New York Daily News reports. The Eagles are not only seeking to reclaim their concert footage from Shelley, they're also reportedly trying to seize his entire extensive archives. According to the Guardian, the Shelley Archives house more than 100,000 reels of 35mm and 16mm film, or more than 10,000 hours of rare concert footage, television shows, home movies and more. Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac and the Rolling Stones are among the dozens of bands that feature in Shelley's vaults, which the Long Island man started when he began filming concert performances in the Seventies.

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The Eagles' Don Henley, Glenn Frey sue Long Island man for cashing in on bootleg concert footage
BY John Marzulli
Friday, November 21, 2014, 8:03 PM

There's going to be some heartache tonight for a Long Island man who is being sued by the Eagles' Don Henley and Glenn Frey.

William Shelley is accused of charging admission to show bootleg concert footage of the supergroup without their permission, according to the copyright suit filed in Brooklyn Federal Court.

The suit says he's been using the footage to enjoy life in the fast lane, "bolster his reputation as a purported music industry 'insider' with close connections and ties to many classic rock greats."

The "Hotel California" rockers have slapped Shelley with cease-and-desist letters telling the desperado to stop showing the footage at Long Island venues, but the Freeport desperado has refused.

Now Henley and Frey's lawyers are taking it to the limit - their suit seek to seize the entire trove of unauthorized concert films from Shelley's archives.

Shelley could not be reached for comment.



WILLIAM SHELLEY'S one-bedroom apartment here is crammed to the rafters with riches.

His treasure is 35 years' worth of collected film footage, much of it documenting rock stars but some of it theatrical, like Sarah Bernhardt performing in "Hamlet" in 1900.

He endures claustrophobia-inducing conditions to live with his roughly 100,000 old 16- and 35-millimeter films. Documentary filmmakers and other interested parties pay $1,000 per minute of footage to use them - "I'm cheap," Mr. Shelley said.

Being an archivist, even one in possession of never-televised footage of Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and other megawatt personalities, has not been a road to riches for Mr. Shelley, 48. For all his abundance - films not piled on the floors, windowsills and kitchen counters of his apartment are locked in a Manhattan warehouse - he has to cross his fingers and hope he will make the rent each month, he said.

"This has kept me afloat since I'd say the late '80s, but barely," said Mr. Shelley, whose one-man company, formed in 1985 and based in Manhattan, is called Shelley Archives.

But a new alliance with the Cinema Arts Center in Huntington is allowing Mr. Shelley to reap personal if not financial rewards from his life's work.

Since July, he has been presiding over a monthly series called "Rock Legends Live!" at the center. He delivers a short lecture before screening rare films from his collection, and takes audience questions afterward.

In September, Mr. Shelley presented a tribute to Michael Jackson at which he projected squirreled-away films of the Jackson Five, Marvin Gaye and others. The first in the series, in July, was a screening of rare footage of the Beatles.

That was not Mr. Shelley's idea. In June, when he first approached the center about collaborating, "I said, 'Why don't we do a silent film fest with Mabel Normand?' Then I quickly realized it would be me and the projectionist and the guy sweeping the floor watching. So I said out of desperation, 'Why don't we show rock concerts?,' " he said. "They thought it was a great idea. They said, 'What about the Beatles?' "

Mr. Shelley said, "I figured 10 people would show up." As it turned out, 500 did - and the theater where the series is held can accommodate only 275.

"People came from Manhattan, they came from Pennsylvania. It was shocking," said Mr. Shelley, who also does camera work.

He was surprised that the series' organizers wanted him to talk about the films, but the tales behind his decades' worth of treasure hunts are entertaining. For instance, in the early 1980s, Mr. Shelley learned through the music industry grapevine that because disco was in vogue, Epic Records was trying to get rid of a couple of storage rooms' worth of old rock 'n' roll footage. He loaded up 58 boxes, including films of the Byrds and Janis Joplin, among other rock legends.

Mr. Shelley hopes the Cinema Arts Center series will go on indefinitely; for now, screenings are planned through December. On Oct. 21, reels of Mr. Dylan will be shown. On Nov. 24, Mr. Shelley will present films of Elvis Presley and the Sun Records artists Mr. Cash, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. And on Dec. 29, he will again show Beatles films.

"For me it's an opportunity to educate people about this stuff, and to show them we have to preserve these films, because otherwise they'll rot," he said.

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