Clapton’s Management Explains Why He Sued Widow Over Bootleg CD

The management for Eric Clapton have issued a statement after the musician recently won a lawsuit against a widow who tried to sell a bootleg Clapton CD owned by her late husband on eBay, as both NME and Stereogum reported this week. Clapton will no longer be seeking the damages awarded to him in the case.

The suit initially seemed like a reactionary move from the 76-year-old English guitarist and singer-songwriter, who lately appears intent on alienating some of his fans by refusing to play concerts where COVID-19 vaccination is required and calling pandemic safety guidelines "propaganda." Clapton recently aligned with fellow classic rocker Van Morrison in that regard.

The woman in the CD lawsuit, 55-year-old German resident Gabriele, inherited the unofficial Eric Clapton – Live USA album that her husband had purchased in 1986 after his death. But when she listed it on eBay in July, she received a takedown notice from the auction website followed by an affidavit from Clapton's lawyers claiming the recording was made without his consent.

"They told me Eric Clapton had complained," Gabriele explained to German newspaper Bild last month. "The CD is said to have been recorded illegally. I received a warning first, then the ruling. My husband bought the CD in a department store, not … under the counter."

She was subsequently ordered to pay a nearly $4,000 fine after appealing to a cease-and-desist from Clapton's lawyers. However, apparently taking issue with how the suit played out in the press, Clapton's management on Wednesday (Dec. 22) released the clarifying statement.

They said they had no intention to "target individuals selling isolated CDs," but rather only "active bootleggers manufacturing unauthorized copies for sale." But they suggested that Gabriele challenged them in her initial response to their cease-and-desist, claiming that she told them to "feel free to file a lawsuit."

According to their statement, the entire case "could have been disposed of quickly" with minimal or no cost to Gabriele had she complied with their early correspondence about removing the bootleg. Clapton's management said they only proceeded with the suit when she refused to cooperate.

What do you think of the lawsuit? Read the entire message from Clapton's management below.

Given the widespread and often misleading press reports about a recent bootleg case involving a woman in Germany, the following provides clarification to set the record straight.

Germany is one of several countries where sales of unauthorized and usually poor-quality illegal bootleg CDs are rife, which harms both the industry and purchasers of inferior product. Over a period of more than 10 years the German lawyers appointed by Eric Clapton, and a significant number of other well-known artists and record companies, have successfully pursued thousands of bootleg cases under routine copyright procedures.

It is not the intention to target individuals selling isolated CDs from their own collection, but rather the active bootleggers manufacturing unauthorised copies for sale. In the case of an individual selling unauthorised items from a personal collection, if following receipt of a 'cease and desist' letter the offending items are withdrawn, any costs would be minimal, or might be waived.

Eric Clapton’s lawyers and management team (rather than Eric personally) identifies if an item offered for sale is illegal, and a declaration confirming that is signed, but thereafter Eric Clapton is not involved in any individual cases, and 95% of the cases are resolved before going to Court.

This case could have been disposed of quickly at minimal cost, but unfortunately in response to the German lawyers' first standard letter, the individual's reply included the line (translation): 'feel free to file a lawsuit if you insist on the demands.' This triggered the next step in the standard legal procedures, and the Court then made the initial injunction order.

If the individual had complied with the initial letter the costs would have been minimal. Had she explained at the outset the full facts in a simple phone call or letter to the lawyers, any claim might, have been waived, and costs avoided.

However, the individual appointed a lawyer who appealed the injunction decision. The Judge encouraged the individual to withdraw the appeal to save costs, but she proceeded. The appeal failed and she was ordered to pay the costs of the Court and all of the parties.

However, when the full facts of this particular case came to light and it was clear the individual is not the type of person Eric Clapton, or his record company, wish to target, Eric Clapton decided not to take any further action and does not intend to collect the costs awarded to him by the Court. Also, he hopes the individual will not herself incur any further costs.

Eric Clapton Management
22nd December 2021

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